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The Four

2 decades of hard work pays off for recent Ferris graduate

BIG RAPIDS — After two decades of hard work, this past spring, Massiel Calderon crossed the graduation stage at Ferris State University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree. But this achievement represented more than just earning a diploma.

“I feel like that bachelor’s degree is a symbol of my entire family’s resilience because it took me 20 years to get her bachelor’s. And when I say it out loud, I’m like, this is bananas. But the process that I took to get here, I wouldn’t have traded it for anything, because I don’t think I would have captured all the philosophical teachings that I learned as an 18-year-old,” said Massiel Calderon.

Massiel and her husband, Rafael, faced many obstacles in the past two decades that delayed her from earning her degree.


“His mom, she became ill with leukemia, which is very aggressive and progressive. And we did lose her in three months time. and as a result, Ralphie’s younger siblings, Mia Calderon and Spencer Calderon, they were going to go into foster care unless somebody in the family stood up and we didn’t even talk about it. We just knew what had to get done,” said Calderon.

On top of adopting Rafa’s younger siblings, they had two children of their own. Adding even more challenges to their situation.

“It took us 20 years because we had to take care of the kids. It was four kids in one household in New York, and New York is extremely expensive,” she said.

And then COVID hit, creating even more stress. But one day the Calderon’s ended up in Big Rapids.


“We moved here about three years ago from New York. So I’m not originally from Michigan. The weather scares me a lot, but, we were, as a family, looking for somewhere to eat that had different options. Not diverse options but different options. And we ended up at the Rock, the the café. And on Google it comes up as just a regular place to eat. I didn’t know we were going to arrive to a campus,” Calderon said.

The Rock is a café at Ferris State University. The Calderon’s didn’t realize they had chosen a restaurant at a university, but Massiel knew this was the place she felt called to continue her education. And now it’s become a place her whole family calls home.

“It really is a family affair. So I have a sister here at Ferris. My husband goes to Ferris. Mia goes to Ferris. I’m in the master’s program. And Ariana and Julian, even though they’re in the middle school, they believe they go to Ferris too,” Calderon told me.

And after 20 years of working to earn her bachelor’s degree, Marcial isn’t stopping there.


“My master’s is going to be in educational leadership, and then my doctorate is going to be in community college leadership. So my goal is and I’ve spoken to him about this before. My goal is to be the president of a university like Dr. Pink,” said Calderon.

Massiel Calderon’s story is a true testament that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to and work hard for.

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