Humble beginnings to the Commencement stage: Gricel Escobedo-Kingwell shares her story

The young girl couldn’t have imagined where she is today – speaking to the MSU Moorhead graduating class of 2024. The proud daughter of two Mexican immigrants faced early challenges, including learning English as a second language, being discouraged from taking challenging honors courses by high school teachers, and cleaning houses after school to help support her family.

Her parents did not attend school beyond sixth grade, but these early obstacles inspired a fierce determination and a deep-rooted belief in the power of education.

“I understood that education was going to be a way for me to grow, advance, and support others,” Gricel Escobedo-Kingwell said. “But more than anything, I want to honor my roots, my heritage, my parents’ sacrifice, and my family’s sacrifice. And ultimately, I want to be a role model for my children and others. I received a lot of support along my journey.”

On May 10, Escobedo-Kingwell will address her fellow graduates at MSUM’s 2 p.m. commencement ceremony, sharing her story of grit, growth, and gratitude. When she crosses the stage, the first-generation college student will also be the first in her family to receive a doctorate.

“But I will be clear that I will not be the last,” Escobedo-Kingwell said. “To my parents, I would say the sacrifice was worth it. I thank them for dreaming of a better future and for their bravery in making that future happen.”

Despite early barriers, Escobedo-Kingwell has persevered and excelled in her educational pursuits, having earned undergraduate degrees in political science, Spanish literature, and paralegal and a master’s degree in school counseling, as well as an executive certificate in diversity, equity, and inclusion. In May, she receives a Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in educational leadership and administration from MSUM.

Escobedo-Kingwell is a lifelong learner and a driven professional whose career passion has always focused on supporting students, especially those from underrepresented communities. Working full-time, being a mother, and expecting another child, she searched for the right place to pursue a doctorate. Support was the primary reason she chose MSUM despite being accepted to multiple other prestigious institutions.

“The deciding factor for me was when I met Boyd (Bradbury), who became my advisor and graduate committee chair. I could tell he understood my background and lived experiences,” she said. “Boyd understood I was very committed and here to do what was needed to get this degree. I knew he would support me and not be a barrier,” Escobedo-Kingwell said.

MSUM’s Doctor of Education program exceeded her expectations.

“Boyd was very receptive and supportive,” she said. “Sometimes, if he didn't think I was moving in the right direction, he would coach me in a way that made me feel heard. He has dedicated his entire career to supporting students and it totally resonates with me.”

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

Most importantly, Escobedo-Kingwell found a space where she could embrace her identity and experiences and feel comfortable sharing her story with others. She credits her graduate committee and classmates with creating a caring community that enriched her educational journey.

“Throughout the program, I’ve learned to be my authentic self,” she said. “So many times in education, I haven’t felt that way.”

Even though she earned her degree in December 2023, she waited to commence because she wanted to experience the moment with her cohort.

“If it weren’t for my graduate committee and classmates, this experience would have been so different. I’m so happy to celebrate this occasion with my peers, who have become my community, my family,” she said.

As a commencement speaker, Escobedo-Kingwell is eager to voice her story and hopes others will learn to appreciate the power of their stories.

“I believe everyone has a story,” Escobedo-Kingwell said. “I hope to encourage students to share their stories with others. It allows us to build community, become more authentic in our skin, and learn to step into our light.”

Escobedo-Kingwell is an Education Workforce Specialist with the Educator Workforce and Development Center, Minnesota Department of Education. She is also the owner of Escobedo Education Consulting LLC, that specializes in Diversity, Equity, Belonging, and Restorative Practices. Her consulting business collaborates with school administrators, educators, and support staff to provide comprehensive Social Emotional Learning to students who are new to the United States.

View Commencement Spring 2024 details.


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