Francis Serrano

Francis Carrasco Serrano knows what she wants to do – use the cyber security skills she’s acquired at GTCC and is now expanding at North Carolina A&T State University to help protect kids from predators and other bad things lurking online. Her goal is in sight, and her vision is clear. But the path she’s taken to get here has been a long and arduous one. It’s a journey with many twists and turns, that’s taken her from being deported to Mexico to finding success in a college classroom.

Her father, an American citizen, met her mother in Mexico City, where Francis was born. They moved to North Carolina when was she was only a month old. Because she was born to an American father, Francis was eligible for dual citizenship in both Mexico and the U.S. Her father, unfortunately, did not submit the necessary paperwork in order to obtain dual citizenship for his daughter. That meant Francis wasn’t a citizen, and this was the first obstacle she had to overcome. “I never really considered college because I didn’t have my citizenship, and that was the first wall for me,” she says.

Then fate stepped in. Francis ended up getting arrested and deported to Mexico after spending time at Webb County Jail in Texas. While she was incarcerated, however, Francis made good use of the time studying the LexisNexis law books which the detention center library provided. She found out what she needed to do to in order to become a U.S. citizen. She knew it was vital to do it the right way. “In my mind, I had only one chance, because if you don’t get all of the right papers into immigration by a certain date, that’s it; you don’t get a second chance,” she explains.

For Francis, it was a waiting game. She didn’t want to start the process until she was sure she could get all of the papers immigration requested. It took several years and even more trials and tribulations, but she overcame all obstacles and gained status as a U.S. citizen in 2014 – a status she really could have had all along as the daughter of a U. S. citizen.

Once she became a citizen, she was determined to move forward and create the life she wanted. She worked cleaning houses, but longed for a better future. “I knew I wanted to do something that mattered, but I didn’t know what I could do,” she says.

A co-worker gave her the answer. First, she asked Francis what was something she loved, but Francis had no good answer. “Then she asked me, ‘Well, what’s something you really hate?'” she says.

For Francis, the answer was obvious. As the mother of a five-year-old boy, whom she would do anything to protect, she wanted to do something to deter pedophiles and others who would harm children. Francis knew this was a cause she felt passionate about. After this realization, the next step was clear.

“I got on the computer and researched what careers were out there,” she says. “GTCC’s Cyber Crime Technologies program is what came up.”

Francis enrolled in fall of 2014 and found that she truly loved it. “I’ve always liked solving difficult problems and finding answers to tedious questions. This program was exactly that,” she says.

Becoming a college student was an adjustment at first, but Francis accepted the challenge and dove into her work with determination. In addition to her course work, she worked as a peer-tutor and work-study at GTCC’s counseling center, served as president of the Single Parents Club; participated in Phi Theta Kappa, the Global Scholars program, the Spanish Club; and was a student leader in the STEM club. She also received The Covington Grant -2015, The North Carolina Space Grant scholarship -2016, the Student Excellence award -2017, GTCC’s Community Service Award -2016 and earned first place at St. Andrews University for a STEM competition as well as first place in STEM at Central Piedmont Community College for a presentation on Cyber Security.

The many obstacles she overcame, her dedication to her course work, and her accomplishments within the program earned her the ultimate recognition in May 2017 when she received the President’s Award, the highest honor a student can receive at graduation from a community college. “It was one of those moments where I was genuinely surprised and happy.” she says.

Now that she has her associate’s degree in Cyber Crime Technology, she is attending North Carolina A&T, where she will earn her bachelor’s in computer science with a focus on cyber security, with plans to graduate in 2021. Her hope is that, as she progresses in her career, she will be able to help push for stronger laws against cyber criminals, especially pedophiles. Francis says that she will carry the success she found at GTCC with her, and is excited about whatever comes next.

“I’ve always been someone who believes if you want something, go get it,” she says.