Lydia Delgado

Oakton alum Lydia Delgado

Alumna’s path toward doctoral degree begins at Oakton

A discovery of purpose
After ten years working in childcare, Lydia Delgado knew it was time for a change.
“I had worked my way up from daycare worker to preschool teacher, but I didn’t want to stay in the teaching field just because I’m good at it. I wanted something that felt fulfilling for me,” Delgado recalls.

In 2018, Delgado pivoted to raising her first child, who as an infant required occupational therapy. Although the therapist was working directly with her daughter, “she was also so encouraging of who we were as a family. It was such a strengthening experience for all of us.”

As she participated in her daughter’s treatment she learned her daughter’s OT also worked as a clinical associate professor at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) where the occupational therapy program ranked 3rd in the nation.

“I told her I was looking for a change, and that I want to work with people and make them feel comfortable and invested in their lives,” Delgado recalls. “She looked me in the eyes, and she said, ‘I think you have this in you. If you want to—and if you give it your all—I think you can succeed.’ That encouragement was everything to me.”

Taking a leap of faith
In order to earn a spot in the occupational therapy doctoral program at UIC, Lydia Delgado would need to take nine prerequisite courses, all in one year, all while raising her young daughter. She enrolled at Oakton College, where she discovered her determination and developed confidence.

“When I was a kid, I was never the shiniest person in class—I wasn’t an outstanding student—and I felt like, ‘If I’m not the brightest, then I can’t do it at all,’” Delgado remembers. “Starting school again was daunting. What if I fail?” But then she connected with her sense of purpose.

“I told myself, ‘You’re going to give this the 100 percent you have and see what happens. It doesn’t have to be what everybody else can do, but it’s going to be your 100 percent.’ I wanted to try, even if there was a chance I would fail. That was new for me—and made me keep going.”

Encouragement and guidance on campus
At Oakton College, she says she found the community and support she needed. “I started tutoring on the very first day of classes at Oakton,” Delgado recalls. “I connected with a tutor who stuck with me through all my biology classes. I had really good study groups, but, of course, they would change for each class. Tutoring was the one constant that I had—[my tutor] Gia was in my corner.

“Along with the Learning Center, I visited the library from the first day. The library staff took time to notice me when I walked in. They would ask me how things were going, and then they’d find out that I was struggling with APA style, or stressed about a paper I needed to finish—and they just filled in that gap. They listened a lot. Those short conversations here and there went a long way to help me feel seen when I was struggling.”

‘Oakton set a foundation for me’
She achieved her goal of completing all nine classes. In February 2023, Lydia Delgado got the news she had been praying for: she earned a spot in the Entry-Level Occupational Therapy Doctorate program at UIC. She began the program in the fall term.

“You won’t know for sure what the outcome will be unless you commit to yourself and see it through,” says Delgado. “My confidence has grown in that I’ve seen myself meet deadlines. I’ve seen myself show up and get things done.”

“I know who to go to for help, how to find trustworthy people, and how to recover when I take a wrong turn,” Delgado says. “Oakton set a foundation for me.”