Graduate says return to Gateway even better than first time, prepared her for career
Most Gateway students have a catalyst, or a defining moment, when they decide to go to college.
Even for those who say they’ve always thought about going to college, there still typically is a point in time that pushed them to the point of enrolling.
For Juanita Perez, it was her children. Juanita, who will speak as the Student Responder for the school of Protective and Human Services commencement ceremony, says the catalyst for her enrolling at the college was her children.
“After high school, it took almost 10 years for me to come back to school. My son was starting kindergarten. He was scared and nervous. I wanted to be that comfort to him. I started Gateway at the same time, and I told him, ‘Mommy is going to school, Mommy will also have teachers … we are both going to school, and we will both be really good at it.’
“My son was my motivation for me to come back to school and get my degree. I started wanting to get it for him.”
Juanita said she chose Gateway because it was local and she had a good experience with the college when she had taken a few classes while she was still in high school.
“I liked the instructors then and they were very helpful, and I wanted that if I was going back to college. I still needed some training wheels … even though I had gone to Gateway in high school, I still had a need to be supported.
“I had a good experience the first time around and a great experience again. Actually, it was 10 times better than what I had expected. It was really great. They knew I had a family and was responsible for children of my own, and they were there to help and support me in any way they could.”
Juanita said she chose the Early Childhood Education program because she always enjoyed interacting with children.
“Children are so powerful to make everything joyful and peaceful. Every time I walk into a room full of children, I just feel like I am at peace. That’s why I chose the career I did.”
Juanita says she was already working at an early childhood center when she first enrolled at the college, but her training helped her to refine her skills and become an even better professional.
“Gaining an education made me want to be a director some day,” says Juanita. “Instructors at Gateway helped me to want to do that.”
“Instructors gave us advice — they prepared you for the real world. They showed us what we needed to do to succeed. The field work, the practicums, that all prepares you for how it will work out for you in your career.”
Juanita says she benefited from Gateway’s hands-on approach to education, a format she prefers over lecture-only formats.
“What I liked best about Gateway was the hands-on aspect of it. All the courses that had to do with my career field were hands on. We went over the criteria, went over what we needed to do — and then we were able to do it. I work better with hands-on learning than lectures. Plus, hands-on learning shows you whether you were ready to begin your work.”
Juanita was able to experience some of the student life Gateway has to offer, as well. She was a member of the National Honors Society, which she said helped her to connect with other students.
“Sometimes, you feel isolated.You go to class, you go to work, you have your family. Being a part of the National Honors Society took me outside of my comfort zone to reach out to others.
“It helped me to experience other environments and discuss dreams and goals with others who are going through the same thing.”