Note: This article is part of the StanGrad series, highlighting CSU Stanislaus students who are graduating at commencement ceremonies May 30 and 31. Click here for more.

Virginia Carney, a single mother in need of support, followed her family from the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Central Valley. But when they moved away five years later, with Carney struggling through junior college and an abusive relationship, she finally found the strength to go it alone.

Carney finished her studies at Modesto Junior College in 2010, and she soon became a successful and active student at CSU Stanislaus. Today, she'll graduate with a bachelor's degree in political science and a minor in philosophy.

"These challenging situations have made me the woman that I am today," Carney said. "Because of the adversity I have faced, I have the strength to persevere through anything and use this to help others."

Carney plans to take a year off from school while working as a legal advocate for the Haven Women's Center of Stanislaus County. She then plans to attend law school, with the goal of becoming a public interest attorney focusing on family law. She might even run for office someday.

At CSU Stanislaus, Carney has maintained a 3.5 grade-point average while serving as secretary of the Pre-Law Society. She's been nominated for student awards and selected to participate in the Pre-Law Outreach Program at the University of California, Irvine. She's earned scholarships and awards from California Women Lead, Haven Women's Center and Soroptimist International of Modesto.

Her time at CSU Stanislaus has opened doors to many of these opportunities, but she has also learned life lessons that will aid her as she pursues her long-term goals.

"At CSU Stanislaus, I have learned how to be my own biggest advocate — not just here, but also within the community," she said. "I've learned how important it is to reach out and ask for help, and I've learned that regardless of where you have been in your life, you can still achieve your dreams."

#StanGrad File

Virginia Carney
Degree: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (minor in philosophy)
Hometown: Felton

What memories stand out most from your time at CSU Stanislaus?

"I will always remember the stressful times that correlate with midterms and finals — the tension exhibited throughout campus is highly memorable. I will definitely miss the quad on Wednesdays for Club Day, as there is always so much going on and a lot of information to absorb. What I'll miss most is interacting with the students within my major. I learned so much from them."

Which faculty or staff member had the greatest impact on you, and why?

"Stephen Routh, chair of political science, has been my biggest advocate and has been there for me ever since I first walked into the department and said, 'I want to go to law school; who do I talk to?' He has always been there to listen to the needs of his students, he's always available, and he's always wonderful to talk to. He cares about his students and about their continued success as human beings. I will definitely miss him."

What advice would you give to current and future students?

"Never be afraid to ask for help from your professors. You never know how things will go unless you ask — there are times when you hear things that can change your life in a positive way. I would also tell students to form study groups and interact with other students. We need each other to talk through the concepts we learn. It is highly beneficial."