MERCED — Connie Beserra didn't live a normal teenage life.
By the time she was 15, she had twin newborn girls.
"I had sleepless nights," the 33-year-old Merced resident said. "I didn't do anything my friends did in high school."
However, Beserra wants to be a good role model for her children. She wants them to learn from her mistakes.
She's a single mother raising five children, but she didn't let that stop her from going to college. Her perseverance and hard work was recognized this week by the Soroptimist International Club of North Merced.
"No matter what obstacle comes your way, you can't give up," she said. "I'm going to show (my children) that you have to give your all, no matter what happens."
Beserra is disabled because she has nerve damage in her left arm. She also is raising her five children on her own because their father is not providing financial support.
"Every month is a struggle," she said.
Despite her struggles in life, Beserra decided to lead by example, and she enrolled at Merced College where she is studying accounting and business administration.
Starting a business
Beserra expects to graduate in spring 2014 and then plans to transfer to California State University, Stanislaus. She hopes to start her own certified public accountant company to focus on small farmers.
Beserra has friends whose families are farmers and she hears that they often struggle to find people to do their bookkeeping, she said.
And she's very committed to accomplishing that goal.
"I know I will," she said. "I'm not even going to question it."
Her children are her biggest motivation to succeed in life, she said.
This week, Beserra received the Soroptimist Women's Opportunity Award. The club's goal is to better the lives of women and girls.
Heather Nardello, club president, said Beserra's story illustrates her struggles in life and her perseverance to overcome them.
"She has chosen to put education at the top of her list," Nardello said, who's also the associate director for the Office of Financial Aid at UC Merced.
The club gives out the award once a year, she said, and Beserra really deserved it.
Regardless of being the only provider for her children, she decided to go back to school, Nardello said. "It was important for her to set a good example for her children," she said. "She's a role model for other women in a similar situation."
As part of the award, Beserra received $250. She used the money to take her children shopping for things they needed.
Natasha Walsh, one of her 18-year-old twins, said her mother is a very positive role model who encourages her and her other siblings not to give up. "I'm proud of her," she said.
Walsh said her mother always puts the family first. She said it takes a lot of courage for her mother to raise them on her own.
"I think it's hard for her, but I don't think she takes it as a struggle, and she doesn't let that get her down," she said.
Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (209) 385-2482 or firstname.lastname@example.org.