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Powerful Women

Three "powerful" women dressed in their graduation regalis with big smiles on their faces and happiness in their eyes. Elizabeth Pena hugs Lizmarie's shoulder in a happy, friendly gesture.

From left to right: Karla Cruz, Lizmarie Peralta, and Elizabeth Pena

It was a successful semester at the Student Success Center with several students from the Center graduating at the 2013 Commencement Ceremony, and moving on with an abundance of scholarships. Three students: Karla Cruz, Lizmarie Peralta and Elizabeth Pena have been determined to succeed since stepping on campus a couple of years ago. All three graduated with Honors and received lucrative scholarships to attend Suffolk University, UMASS-Boston and St. Joseph’s College, respectively. However, they did not know where their natural academic abilities would lead them and ongoing conversations at the Center helped them shuffle and weave through the complexities of higher education.

Karla cruised through the ESL program and most of her Business degree, but she wanted a challenge, something that would set her apart from the rest of the pack. During one of her one-to-one sessions, she expressed her desire to apply to Suffolk Law School’s Prelaw Undergraduate Scholars Program (PLUS), an “intensive four-week summer opportunity for undergraduate students to learn more about the practice of law and what it takes to become a successful law student.” Karla received help at the Center with the essay, resume and interview necessary for the application process. She was accepted and completed the program in the summer of 2012. In May 2013, Karla accepted Suffolk’s $18,000 scholarship offer and plans to attend the university in Fall 2013.

Lizmarie’s story is also filled with perseverance and self-advocacy. She moved back and forth from the Dominican Republic before finally settling down by herself at the tender age of sixteen. She worked, paid rent and attended Lawrence High School, where she graduated as one of the top students in her class. Liz enrolled at NECC, but like many of our students, was the first one in her family to attend college and had no guidance in navigating its complex world. Regardless of her ability to earn outstanding grades, a goal without a plan will get you nowhere. Like Karla, she reached out for help. She realized that her career path was determined by her family’s expectations and not hers. She eagerly changed majors and actively explored four-year colleges. Within two years, Liz completed her Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts and served as a model student at the Student Success Center. In May 2013, she received a full scholarship to attend UMASS-Boston to study Psychology.

Elizabeth is the mother of three children, two of whom are in college. She returned to school after a long break, but was determined to show her children the drive needed to be successful in college and in the real world. She studied Business Management in Health Care and earned A’s with ease, but was unsure about the next step. After some discussions at the Center, Elizabeth decided that she must continue her studies. She was accepted into St. Joseph’s College, a four-year school that teaches on NECC’s campus. These options are crucial for students like Elizabeth who needs to continue to raise her family and cannot commute or dorm at a four-year institution.

These are great students who earned outstanding grades, but they are no different from many NECC students who are first generation college students and feel lost and overwhelmed by the pressure of school, work and family. At the Student Success Center, much of that anxiety can be addressed while ensuring academic progress through tutoring referrals, workshops, one-to-one sessions and other support services.