Sergia Cardenas made headlines last year as she was elected the first Mexican American woman on the city of Pierson’s Town Council, an agricultural city on the east side of Ocala National Forest. Besides making strides in her community by earning a seat on the council, Cardenas also graduated last summer with an Associate of Arts in Paralegal Studies degree from Keiser University online.

“It was one of my biggest goals in life,” Cardenas said. “I am the first one in my family to graduate college.”

Cardenas was born in Selma, California, but her family moved to Pierson, Florida when she was just a few months old. Her parents worked in the ferneries of Pierson to earn a living. As the fern capitol of the world, Pierson is responsible for producing about 85% of all floral ferns used in the United States. Cardenas would often work the ferneries with her parents in the summertime to help earn extra money for school clothing.

“My father always used to tell me that you have to work hard,” she said. “This country is about opportunities. If you work hard you can get wherever you want.”

Cardenas’s first job working for an attorney had her translating for Hispanic, non-English speaking clients and assisting the lead attorney with motions/petitions. She worked in the law firm for four years but left to pursue a position in the tourism industry where she earned a higher income to support her two young children. Cardenas said the passion for law never subsided, though.

When Cardenas later accepted a position back at a law firm, she enrolled in Keiser University paralegal studies to finally obtain her degree. The decision came at the recommendation of a friend, who admired Keiser University for its accelerated programs and online degree options.

She continued working full-time and supporting her three children while obtaining her online degree. Cardenas said that there were times she found it challenging to balance the schoolwork with her demanding job, but she also said that she loved the challenge.

When a seat opened on the town council, Cardenas knew that it was a perfect opportunity to give back to the community that had always supported her. She said that she wanted to be a voice for others, so she ran a grassroots campaign in the summer of 2020 and was officially sworn into office November of 2020.

Her education with Keiser University assisted her in both developing her grassroots campaign and learning the legal background that came along with having a seat on the council.

“Keiser University opened new doors for me,” Cardenas said. “I’m thankful to Keiser University for the support and motivation from administration, teachers, and even the students.”

Keiser University is a private, independent, non-profit university serving nearly 20,000 students at 21 Florida campuses, online, and two international sites. Co-founded in 1977 by Chancellor Arthur Keiser, Ph.D., and Evelyn Keiser, Keiser University currently offers more than 100 degrees from associates to the doctoral level. Keiser University is a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and was ranked No. 5 in the U.S. in Social Mobility by U.S. News and World Reports in 2022. Keiser University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges as a level VI institution. For more information, visit