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Married military veterans graduate California college together with finance degrees

The Bahena’s are two military veterans who are married with three children, who will both be graduating San Diego State together after a decade of taking classes.

SAN DIEGO — It was no easy task for San Diego State students Karina and Alonzo Bahena, as both are majoring in finance, both are military veterans, and both are balancing classes while working full-time jobs and raising three small children.

"It was definitely difficult, but we made it happen, and now we are here today, and graduating tomorrow," said Alonzo Bahena, who is originally from Chicago. "It definitely was time consuming, having kids and driving from Riverside on Tuesdays and Thursdays from last semester to this semester,”

Karina and Alonzo met at a wedding in Riverside and got married in 2011. 

Karina served in the U.S. Army based at March Air Reserve Base, and Alonzo served in the Marine Corps based at Camp Pendleton.

They both started taking college classes in 2014 at Palomar College. Then military life took over when Alonzo deployed to Afghanistan and later, they had two children they brought to his Okinawa deployment for 3 years, but the couple didn't give up on their dreams of getting a bachelor's degree in finance.

“I know it was a little difficult for us because we had that mature mindset well coming into it with 18-year-old and 19-year-olds,” said Bahena.

Now at 31-years-old, the couple is out of the military and their family grew to add 6-month-old Natalia Rosalia. They've transferred to five different schools before working their way to finish up their degree.

Karina will be the first to graduate college in her family. Alonzo wasn't expected to graduate at all.

"Not to spill all the beans, but I was the kid who was never going to make it anywhere, so this is a huge accomplishment for me because growing up I was the class clown, but here I am today,” said Bahena.

Karina is spending the day getting all three kids and their grandparents ready for their big day Saturday as they'll be on campus at 6:30 a.m. to graduate at 8 a.m. from SDSU's Fowler College of Business.

"Mission accomplished, you know we didn't just want to give up, like that and say we're turning our back on our goals. That's not going to be the best example I wanted to show my kids, and that's the biggest thing I want them to feel proud to see mom and dad walking across that stage and then cheering for us,” said Bahena. 

Alonzo hopes to work in wealth management or personal investments and Karina, who is currently working at Bank of America wants to open a coffee shop in Riverside.

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