First generation mother inspiring her kids and students to get ahead in education

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- As a first-generation Latina, Angelica Belmonte had to figure everything out when it came to her education. A journey she says was intimating and challenging.

"It was a hard, hard struggle for me. I was not able to attain the education that I wanted," she said.

Belmonte's struggles were fueled with motivation, and she says although her parents couldn't guide her step by step, they encouraged her along the way.

"It made them very proud. They supported me with their love and care, cheering me on," she said.

For the last 16 years, she's been a preschool teacher in Merced County. Alongside her passion for teaching little ones in the classroom, she mentors younger teens who have the opportunity of thinking ahead when it comes to college classes.

"I feel the need in some way of being able to share this experience and knowledge with previous students, my family, and my kids," she said.

Her son, Alfonso, graduated from Atwater High School this year. Her daughter, Daniela, graduated from El Capitan High School last year. Each of them completed 4 Associate Degrees from Merced College, setting them up for success.

Both were also involved in sports all four years. Their mother says being proud is an understatement.

"It's just an immense, strong feeling of excitement of what they can accomplish even more," Belmonte said.

Belmonte and her children are also becoming role models for their cousin, Damien Gutierrez.

"I wouldn't know anything if it wasn't for her," Gutierrez said.

Being an educator has allowed her to stay in touch with some students and their parents.

She's helped many learn about the dual enrollment program, like sisters Kaylie & Madison Mann.

"I would not have known about being able to take college classes as a high schooler if it were not for her. It's been really meaningful for us and beneficial for our future," said Kaylie Mann.

She hopes to continue guiding and inspiring young people with the advice she wishes she would have had as a teenager.

"I have those skills and experience, and I can share it. That is just an amazing feeling for myself," said Belmonte.
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