Kentucky State University’s valedictorian for the Fall 2018 Commencement Convocation overcame illness, withdrew from school for a semester, worked a full-time job, participated in extracurricular activities and finished her degree in three years.

Jessica Marquez Cordova, a business administration major originally from Mexico but now residing in Louisville, overcame adversity in many forms on her way to finish her degree.

Cordova said she was diagnosed with Bell’s palsy and hospitalized her freshman year, which led to her withdrawing from school.

“I had only been in school for one month and was discouraged by this, which almost caused me to not go back,” Cordova said.

Cordova came back to school and worked through her undergraduate coursework like a woman inspired.

To make up for the semester she lost, Cordova took summer school courses and 20 or more credits each semester in order to graduate with her class.

The academic load would be a tall enough task on its own, but Cordova pushed herself even harder.

“Throughout this I was also working two jobs and participating in different extracurricular activities,” Cordova said. “I was a full-time student and a full-time employee. It was super difficult but worth it.”

Cordova founded her own organization her freshman year (known as HOLA), served as a Bred Leader, is currently the vice president of marketing for Innovators Inc. and is a member of Delta Mu Delta Honor Society.

Cordova said she felt honored when she found out she was the valedictorian.

“It made all of the struggles I faced worth it,” Cordova said. “When I graduate high school, I did not even think I was going to be able to attend college, let alone graduate in three years and be presented as valedictorian. It has truly been a worthwhile experience for me and I am so thankful.”

Cordova is currently working as a retail assistant manager but aspires to work as an A&R director at RCA Records. She plans to continue her education and enroll in graduate school.

Cordova said many people have served as an inspiration for her to complete her degree, but two in particular stand out.

“My advisor, Professor Kimberly Sipes, always believed in me and believed in my goal to graduate early,” Cordova said. “Since I am a first-generation student it was difficult for me to understand all the aspects of college. She encouraged me, guided me in the right direction and when I needed advice, she was someone I could go to.”

Cordova said Professor Marlin McKay also taught her so much.

“He taught me so much regarding the music industry and has helped me find programs and internships,” Cordova said. “They (Sipes and McKay) both encouraged me to follow my goals, no matter how crazy they may seem.”

Cordova hopes her story will inspire others to overcome adversity.

“Regardless of your circumstances or where you come from, that does not define where you can and will be,” Cordova said.

Cordova is one of many who graduated Friday, Dec. 14 from Kentucky State University.