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Intellect

From Homelessness to Graduation: One Graduate's Story

Joe Robledo's life started out like any other. He and his family had the normal ups and downs most families experience, but everything changed when his father lost his job as a Federal Air Marshal.

Due to his father's unemployment, Robledo's teenage years were burdened with a hardship that not many of his BYU classmates have experienced. He and his family lost their home, vehicles and financial stability. Robledo recalls moving often and sleeping on an air mattress that would deflate during the night. And at age 16, Robledo and his brothers were tasked with mowing lawns in 110-degree weather, just to help provide money for food. 

Throughout these challenges, Robledo never allowed his dreams and ambitions of success to fade.

People told him he'd never leave San Antonio, Texas. They said he'd never be accepted into BYU, and he'd never graduate. But Robledo, who had learned a strong work ethic from his parents, was focused on doing everything he could to get where he wanted to be. 

This week he's thrilled to be able to prove the doubters wrong as he walks across the stage during BYU's graduation ceremonies to earn a degree in sociology.

"The hardships make me who I am," Robledo said. "I wouldn?t be who I am today and wouldn't have the attitude I do about life if it wasn't for those experiences I've had in the past."

Finding a work ethic to succeed

The perspective Robledo learned during the nights he spent worrying about stability as a teenager has given him a clearer focus to ensure more stability in his future. It's a lesson ingrained on him from his father.

Robledo's father led a life of dedicated service. He served as a missionary in Fresno, California, a U.S. Reconnaissance Marine, a Border Patrol Agent and a Federal Air Marshal. Even when financial difficulties took away everything the family had, Robledo's father remained faithful and worked every day to support his family.

Life wasn't easy. But the family refused to give up or back down on the future they saw for themselves. Today, they are closer than ever to financial stability.

Robledo has seen first hand how there are no free handouts in life, and if you want to succeed, you have to work for it. He's taken that theory and uses his family's financial struggles to motivate him to pack as much as he can into his educational experience.

He acknowledges how his BYU family has been there for him from the beginning. Fellow students, professors, staff and faculty members, have been angels assisting him in his journey.

"Friends and ward members were so generous to us when we were struggling, but people aren't just going to save you every time; it's just not that way," Robledo said. "You've got to work."

Transferring that work ethic to education

His day starts at 5 a.m. After reading his scriptures and saying his prayers, he's off for a one mile run, at least. From there he goes to the gym, lifts weights and gets to campus by 8 a.m.

Sixteen credit hours of sociology classes take up his time until mid-afternoon. Then he heads to practice for BYU's Living Legends performance group. Add serving in the LDS temple, a part-time research assistant job and an internship to the mix, and you have just a glimpse of Robledo's daily routine. Of course he makes time for friends, family and social time. He and his girlfriend Linda recently announced their engagement.

There isn't a moment of unproductive time in his day, and that's the way he wants it.

"You can't expect things if you haven't done your part to make them a reality," Robledo said. "If you do the things you feel like you need to do, if you give it all you've got and if you trust in the Lord and remember that he always has your back, then it'll all work out."

He continuously enhances his work efforts not only to pay his own way through school, but also to send money to help his family back home.

He's interned at several companies, including American Express, and held e-commerce and research positions on-campus. Robledo doesn't plan on stopping his busy routine any time soon. He's currently looking for a job in data analytics. 

More than anything else, Robledo is depending on the Lord. He knows that with a lot of hard work and the Lord on his side, nothing is impossible.

"I know that God is real, He is caring and He does love us," Robledo said. "That is all that is important. Life has all sorts of craziness that it will throw at you everyday, but you'll be okay as long as you keep to those basic principles of knowing that He is there for you and He's got your back."

Writer: Jenna Randle

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