Gateway degree leads to realization of dreams
At Gateway Technical College, if you can dream it, you can make it real.
That’s what Laura Valeriano says. Because in her case, it’s true.
Laura dreamed of a better future, and Gateway helped make that a reality as she earned her Human Service Associate degree and entered a career field -- and future -- she looks forward to every day.
“Gateway has helped me to have a better life,” says Laura. “I have a better job and can help support my family, and it has helped to change my perspective on life. I am looking forward to my future.”
Laura works as a service coordinator at an area residential facility, assisting seniors, low-income people and those with disabilities. She helps them find resources, which will allow them to live independently, as well as help them manage their finances.
She uses her Gateway training and experiences to benefit her clients every day, fueled by instructors who taught her real-world skills.
“Our instructors told us the truth about the field -- we had classes and lectures, but they would also take time to tell you about real-life experiences,” she said. “They would tell us, ‘This is what you will experience out there in your career’ and they were right. There are times when I am handling a situation and recall what our instructors told us about it and how to handle it. That’s helped me in my career.”
Laura’s dream of gaining a degree and career are firmly rooted at Gateway, even before she began working on her associate degree. She began at the college by taking courses in the ELL program to learn English and the GED program to earn a United States-recognized high school diploma and replace the one she’d earned in another country.
After that, college staff members encouraged her to continue her education and attain her career goals. “I figured why not? I liked Gateway, it was affordable, I was happy with the ELL program, I wanted a career and decided to go for it.
“I had decided that, financially, I didn’t want to be where we were at for the rest of my life. And, I didn’t want that for my kids, too. My ambition, then, was to go to college.”
The Human Service Associate program was a natural fit because of the care Laura gave to one of her children who has special needs.
“I started in this program for my child. I started to understand more about disabilities the more I tried to help him incorporate into society. I said I already know some of the basics and if I can help him, why couldn’t I help others?
“I like that I can help people who are struggling. When people start to struggle too much, they begin to believe that’s OK. And it’s not,” said Laura.
“When they have a crisis, they don’t know where to turn to get help, and that’s when I am there, to help them. I can connect them with the resources they need.
“I like what I do very much.”
The support Gateway provides its students is a foundation of the college, Laura said.
“I was a mother of two kids at that time and the flexibility of the courses and the support really helped me. Honestly, there was a point where I was unsure if I could do this -- but Gateway encouraged me to stay, and I am glad I did.”
Laura was also helped by two Gateway Technical College Foundation scholarships, the Gateway Centennial Scholarship and the Atty. Joseph Jr. and Kathy Madrigrano Scholarship. A video of Laura speaking at a Foundation event can be found here: https://bit.ly/LauraValerian