Little Wing Connections Luncheon Speaker Linda Montenegro

I was raised by my Dad, Paternal Grandmother and Paternal Great-Grandmother, along with my older sister, older brother and younger sister. My mom died at 28 years old, leaving my Dad to raise me and my siblings. I was four years old, my oldest sister was eight, my brother five and my little sister only 9 weeks old. My grandmother and great-grandmother moved in to help raise us while my Dad worked 2-3 jobs to keep us all together.
I went through school, never really knowing why I was there. To this day, I cannot remember anyone ever asking me “what do I want to be when I grow up”. So, I never really thought about it either. When I reached high school, I noticed my classmates were all going to counselors to talk about college. I remember talking with my counselor and I was told “girls like you don’t go to college after high school, they get married.” I am still not sure what “girls like you” meant. I then tried to talk with my Dad and Grandmother about going to college. They told me “there is no money for college”, just go to work.
When I turned 18 my little sister and I got into a fight and my Dad told me “it is time for you to go”. The problem was, I had no place to go. I was only working part-time at the Kmart grill, making $3.00 per hour, and had no car. I called my boyfriend and told him to come and get me. I took my clothes and a few personal items and started looking for a place to live. I found a small apartment in a questionable neighborhood that was close enough to work that I could walk. The next year I married my high-school boyfriend.
I found a new job at the local newspaper and my husband was working for a fish packaging plant. We seemed to be doing okay, not making a lot of money, but surviving. We were married almost 7 years, when I became pregnant. We seemed to be happy after our son was born, but unfortunately, that did not last. A year after my son was born, I found out that my husband was having an affair. I did not want to lose him, so I turned the other way and told him I forgave him. He continued the affair and after about 6 months, told me he wanted a divorce and custody of our son. I agreed to the custody arrangement, because I could not afford to raise my son on my salary. I received limited visitation. I was crushed.
I spent the next 7 years working at the newspaper and doing my best to keep it together and help with supporting my son. After being single for over 7 years, I met a wonderful man, but we only became the best of friends. In addition, to my new best friend, I also met another man that was interested in me. After less than 6 months of dating, I married him and became pregnant with my second son. I found out only 2 short months into the marriage that I had made the biggest mistake of my entire life. My new husband was an alcoholic and a drug addict. He worked, but barely and he was physically and mentally abusive to me. He controlled my every move and took every chance to tear me down and tell me I was a horrible mother and wife. It was the third time that he put me into the hospital that I knew I had to take my son and leave. I called my best friend and told him the whole truth of what was going on. He was shocked, because I had told him that everything was going great in my new marriage and that I was happy. When I got off the phone, it was only about 15 minutes before my friend showed up at my house with a couple of other friends, a sheriff and a moving van. He told my husband to stay out of the way and he moved me out that day. I never looked back.
My friend and I became even closer and did everything together. Ten years after we met, he asked me to move in with him. Although I was very happy, I also felt as though something was missing. After a lot of soul searching, I figured out that I wanted a career. I went to my husband and announced that I would like to go to college. He was so supportive and I went and signed up for a night program at a private for-profit university. My husband changed his work schedule so that he could be home with my (our) son. In 2001 I graduated with my BA in Business Management and in 2003 I graduated with my Masters in Business Administration. While I was in my second year of college, an administrator at the school came to me and told me that I should apply to be an academic advisor. I was surprised and honored. This was the first time someone in authority at a school thought I would be good at something. I worked for this for-profit university for 3 years. I was then given an opportunity to move to Brandman University as an academic advisor. I made the change because of Brandman University’s non-profit status. I have now been with Brandman University for the past 13 years. I was promoted to a campus director in 2010 and moved from our Yuba City campus to the Fairfield campus.
I am so grateful to my husband for supporting and encouraging me to go back to school. We have now been married for the past 16 ½ years. We are best friends and a very happy married couple. I finally feel like someone sees my attributes and I am now a confident, strong, independent professional women.
I decided to work for Brandman University so that I could give back to others. I have a passion for helping those that do not feel like they are good enough to go back to school. I love it when students come in and say “I don’t know if I will be successful”. I show them that they can do it and let them know that I too once thought I could never earn a degree. I am able to relate to single moms, divorced students, or just those that were never encouraged to go to college.
I am also looking for an opportunity to volunteer at an abused women shelter. I feel that from my experience, I would be able to provide an insight to these women, showing them that they can come back from their pain.
Linda M. Montenegro, MBA
Campus Director
Brandman University
4820 Business Center Drive, Suite 100
Fairfield, CA 94534
T 707-863-4460 F 707-864-3157 C 707-330-9540
A Member of the Chapman University System