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Santa Rosa college graduate multi-tasking her way to a master's degree, law school

Students Rising Above: Irmina Benson
Students Rising Above: Irmina Benson 03:47

When most people graduate from college, they tend to focus on one job. But this month's Students Rising Above scholar is currently juggling multiple workplace assignments.

Step inside Irmina Benson's work space and you may notice a familiar theme: pink. It's everywhere. From her plastic gloves to her keyboard to her paintings. 

"I love pink. I feel like it's a very warm and romantic color," Benson explained. "I love to use colors that are very surreal, but also are showing a place that could be very real."   

It may look playful, but make no mistake; when it comes to her multiple jobs, she is all business.

"Everything I do, I've made it so they're my choices. Nothing that I do is somebody else's choice," she said. "Nothing that I do is because I have to. Because people like me who have come from generational poverty, or families that didn't go to college, didn't have opportunities, had to work very hard to get by, they did not have choices the same way that I do. 

Right now, Irmina is juggling five jobs. She runs her own online makeup business called Planet Euphoria. 

"I've had about 10,000 orders. I've grown my Instagram account organically to 25,000 followers. My TikTok account is at 75,000 followers," Benson said.

She's a legal recruiter for Estrin Legal Services, a first response manager for the complex where she lives, and she's also getting her Master's degree. Next step: law school.

Chere Estrin is Irmina's boss and mentor. 

"I don't think she knows fear. I don't think this young woman knows fear. I haven't seen it. And there is plenty that she could've been afraid of," said Estrin. 

Irmina grew up in Roseland, an annex of the city of Santa Rosa. She went to Wesleyan University in Connecticut. She's the first in her family to graduate from college. It wasn't easy getting there.

"It's like there is always a block when you are first-gen, low-income student," said Benson. "There is always a block where every single time you get ahead. There's another roadblock that you have to overcome."

One of those roadblocks, racial discrimination, is something Irmina says she's had to deal with her whole life.

"I feel like I've always had to deal with issues of discrimination, because I do have an intersectional identity," said Benson. "I'm an Afro-Latina woman, a queer woman and a woman of color. I carry all those identities with me and I found -- from college, different employment opportunities -- I've had to experience that."

She credits Students Rising Above for helping her navigate each step in her academic and professional life

"They have always been an extremely nonjudgmental and actionable resource for me in my life," she said. "Anytime I needed food in college or a flight home or new technology; a computer, a textbook. Anything I needed in college, Students Rising Above supported me in getting it. And not just in material things, but also in opportunities."

No matter what her end game is, Benson will always be juggling her multiple jobs. Not because she has to, but because she can.  As for her ultimate career goal, she says she wants to start a nonprofit that helps wrongly incarcerated people get out of prison. 

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