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Chico State

Child Development Major Owes Success to Her Grandmother

portrait of Abigail Resendez
Jason Halley / University Photographer

Family can be a lifeline filled with love, compassion, and understanding—but it can also be complicated.

Abigail Resendez has experienced both and emerged as a champion for children, while also caring for the woman who took her in as a young girl, her 86-year-old grandmother. Now on the cusp of graduating from Chico State, the child development major is poised, hopeful, and ready to meet future challenges.

“My life easily could have been something else,” the Corning native reflected. “I easily could not have been in college without my grandma’s support, because she was willing to take me in—she didn’t have to, but she did.”

Resendez’s mother has had a continuous battle with addiction. Resendez does not recall much from her early childhood, including what was perhaps the most pivotal moment in her life.

“One day when I was an infant, my grandma was trying to get a hold of my mother,” she said. “My mother was nowhere to be found, I hadn’t been fed, and I needed to be changed.”

Seeing this pattern repeating itself, her grandmother intervened and, recognizing her granddaughter deserved a better and more stable beginning to her life, scooped up baby Abigail from her mother’s home and brought her to her own home to care of her.

“That definitely impacted me, because for as long as I can remember, my grandma was the one to support me financially, emotionally, and in every way,” she said.

Resendez’s biological father was incarcerated and deported when she was very young. She has virtually no memory of him and struggled growing up without her father in her life. Resendez said communication between the two over the years remained inconsistent and minimal—and last year she learned that he had passed away.

“Although I would have done anything to change things to have had him around while I was growing up and now, I accept and understand that everything I have gone through has made me who I am today,” she said.

Thanks to her grandmother’s care, Resendez remained focused on academics throughout junior high and high school. Arriving at Chico State, she was initially a liberal studies major, but when the thought of teaching 30 kids at a time felt like too much, she recalled a class she had taken in high school.

“I took a child development class in high school, and I loved it,” Resendez said. “Focusing on children during their important younger years is what appealed to me.”

When she changed her major to child development, Resendez blossomed. Building on her own life experience, she envisioned herself as a support system for young children, something she said every child deserves.

portrait of Abigail Resendez leaning against a wall.
“Abby has a really big heart for children and strives to make each child feel important,” Child Development Department Chair Gail Walton said. “She understands how important support is, especially because of the messages and support that she’s gotten from her grandmother.”

“Children are so vulnerable, they need adults so much. When I was younger, I wish I would have had that help, that mentor, and that person to guide me, to show me, ‘we care about you,’” she said. “I definitely had that with some teachers, but the affection, the love, and hearing, ‘I care for you,’ it wasn’t really given at home.”

Child Development Department Chair Gail Walton has witnessed Resendez’s maturity, kindness, and compassion—and knows how those traits were passed along.

“Abby has a really big heart for children and strives to make each child feel important,” Walton said. “She understands how important support is, especially because of the messages and support that she’s gotten from her grandmother.”

Inside the classroom, Resendez has been nothing short of brilliant. She has been named to the Dean’s list every semester while carrying a 3.8 GPA. In fall 2019, she received the McConnell Scholarship for $30,000 from the McConnell Foundation—then promptly volunteered at the Salvation Army sorting, preparing, and picking foods to package, while handing out fresh produce, bread, milk, eggs, and other prepared foods to individuals in need.

In 2022, she was bestowed with the Department of Child Development Exemplary Research Paper Award. And this year, Resendez is being recognized by her department and college, earning both the Department of Child Development Outstanding Student Award and the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Valene L. Smith Outstanding Student Award.

She has also been selected as this year’s Commencement Speaker for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

Proudly a first-generation student and the middle child of five siblings, Resendez knows that impressionable eyes are on her. Being a role model to two younger siblings, and other first-generation students in her orbit, is a responsibility she welcomes.

“Identifying as first-generation student, I am able to break down those barriers holding back others from chasing their dreams,” she said. “First-generation students demonstrate the perseverance and resilience it takes to accomplish goals in order to have a brighter future.”

And Resendez’s brighter future is possible because of her grandmother, who, after already raising 11 children of her own, invested in her granddaughter’s future by raising her. The roles, however, have reversed over the last two years, as Resendez has been her grandmother’s caretaker.

With ailments ranging from diabetes and high blood pressure to kidney disease and a recently fractured knee, her grandmother requires close attention at home and Resendez drives her to and from appointments. Though it is difficult and time consuming, Resendez wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s hard work and definitely hard knowing that the roles have changed, and it’s been a ride emotionally, seeing her get older,” she said. “I want to give back to her for all the hard work, love, and support she has given me all my life.”

After graduating, Resendez envisions herself pursuing a graduate degree, after gaining more experience working at the Boys and Girls Club. Whatever path she chooses, she will travel with her life experiences guiding the way.

“Abby lives her life with gratitude. She approaches the choices that she makes in life thoughtfully and wants to be sure of her decisions,” Walton said. “Whether it’s graduate school or in the workforce, I believe she is going to be very successful.”