Posted on Thursday January 3rd 2013
Good evening and thank you for being here celebrating the 50th anniversary of our highly regarded and cherished Greenfield Community College.
It feels good to be back for a visit to the place that held my hand and helped me grow.
This evening, I would like to share a little bit of my story and specifically, I would like to tell you about the significant role that Greenfield Community College has played in my journey.
When I was first introduced to the idea of obtaining a college education in the U.S., I thought of it as unlikely for various reasons. The two main ones were funding and lack of preparation. At the time, I didn’t think I could attend college and be successful, because I didn’t have a strong enough educational background.
I remember walking around the Smith College Campus on several occasions and hearing about the kinds of students that attend that institution and about their amazing alumna network. This inspired me to want to become a Smithie one day, but back then I seriously thought that I had missed out on that opportunity.
Back in 2009 when I graduated from Belchertown high school, attending Smith College or any college seemed like an impossible dream. I had been in the U.S. for less than a year, my English was not fluent yet, and the thought of having a similar situation to the one I had just had during my senior year terrified me. I was simply exhausted. In addition, I missed my family and friends, whom I left behind in the Dominican Republic. Nonetheless, I decided to at least explore my options before returning back home.
During my first visit to GCC, I felt in love with the place. It was not the construction (on the main campus) that reminded me of the D.R. and made me feel at home, but rather the people and its environment. I felt an immediate connection, and before I even realized it, I was ready to start my journey at GCC.
The question then was whether or not I could receive funding. As a student from a very low-income family, money was the deciding factor to determine if I could receive a higher-level education or not. In order to afford GCC, I needed all the help I could get. I contacted the financial aid office and obtained some federal aid, but I still needed money to buy books, gas for my daily 60-mile commute, and to afford some of my every day expenses.
In my efforts to find more funding, I learned about the GCC Foundation and I applied to several scholarships. The help I obtained from the Foundation made all of the difference as it allowed me to work fewer hours, which in turn, freed up my time to focus on what is most important, my studies.
The financial support from the GCC Foundation and other sources opened the doors to not only higher education, but also, to an incredible array of opportunities. I was able to meet and work with amazing individuals that taught with passion and excitement. Instructors here have a genuine desire to see us succeed. I took advantage of that and discovered that their help extends far outside of the classroom. They also help with things like finding internships, enhancing resumes, solving the Rubik’s cube, among many others, and all we need to do is ask. Along with faculty and staff, students at GCC have other extraordinary resources, such as the library and an excellent Peer Tutoring program.
GCC also has multiple clubs and organizations on campus to meet the needs and interests of students. I find that participating in such groups help students increase their confidence, develop people skills, and learn how to share ideas effectively with others.
My point is, that from the very beginning to the very end of a student’s GCC career, there is always a person there that cares and is willing to provide assistance or at least point in the right direction. At GCC, there is always something students can do to prepare for their future endeavors.
The moment I started my GCC career, I felt connected, included, accepted, and supported. I’m so happy it was not just a first impression and people were actually helpful, attentive, and caring all year-round.
I’m tremendously grateful for having received financial support when I needed it the most. If it wasn’t for GCC, Smith College would have remained as a beautiful walking trail, and my hopes of someday pursuing a Computer Science degree would have remained a dream. Furthermore, my goal of obtaining a graduate degree would simply be a wish, but now it’s a real possibility.
The good thing is that Greenfield Community College is very accessible to many other students as well. As a matter of fact, I know several GCC alumni who transferred to other institutions recently and who needed financial assistance too, and I also know that almost all of them received one or more scholarships from the GCC Foundation at some point, and they are thankful for them.
Greenfield Community College is a wonderful institution and a magnificent opportunity for students. In my case, I had the motivation and the desire to move forward and I used them to lead the way; but my hard work would have only taken me so far. It’s the resources at GCC that made all this possible.
I would like to thank you, for contributing to a foundation that creates opportunities to help students get closer to their goals; a foundation that helps students overcome hurtles and open doors that otherwise would remain closed.