Growing up in her household, there was no talk of going to college for Gabriela Romo.
She was told once high school was over, she would work at the factory to provide for her family.
In a family that had never gone to college, with a father who never made it past the third grade, Gaby was never allowed to think about going herself.
That was until her junior year of high school, when soccer changed everything.
“The coach came and saw me play and she told me I was going full ride,” Gaby said, laughing at the thought. “I had absolutely no idea what that meant, but I said yes and here I am.”
Gaby said she never thought she would get to play the sport she loved at such a high level while getting an education at the same time.
When Gaby told her parents she wanted to go to college, she said they didn’t know what that was, but agreed as long as they didn’t have to pay.
“I grew up with a very family oriented perspective,” Gaby said. “I know that if I invest this time and get a good job, then however much time God gives me, I can provide for them for the rest of my life.”
A few years ago, her cousin in Mexico got a bacterial infection. Gaby said that in Mexico people have to pay before treatment, but her cousin couldn’t afford it.
Her health became worse, and she was eventually put on a ventilator.
Gaby said she saved $2000 that summer to send down to her cousin, but it couldn’t save her.
She ended up passing away because no one could afford her treatment.
“That’s what made me want to be a doctor. If you’re a doctor the money shouldn’t matter,” Gaby said. “They should have run more tests. They should have saved her.”
Due to that traumatic experience, and realizing that soccer wouldn’t last forever, she said her new plan is to go to medical school and become a family physician.
Gaby said she has always wanted to help people, which was passed down to her from her mother’s ways. She said her mother is the glue that holds her family together.
Her mother always encouraged her and her siblings to look out for one another and to achieve their dreams.
“But my father, he is the one who divides us. He belittles me and my five siblings,” Gaby said. “He would always say things like, ‘You guys are useless,’ and when I would be doing homework he’d say, ‘School’s not important get your butt up and clean.’”
Gaby said her father never approved of her pursuits of education, her desire to learn, or her love for soccer. He would tell her since she was a girl she was supposed to do the chores, and that soccer was for guys.
She said he would even hit her and her siblings, which led to her having a low self-esteem at a young age.
But soccer was her escape.
Gaby would have to wait until he left for work to go outside and practice. She started at just 6 years old.
“God gave me that man as my father,” Gaby said. “No matter what, this is how my life was supposed to be. That is why I am here today.”