Endicott College’s Van Loan School of Professional Studies’ Boston Location stands in the heart of the city—just steps away from the State House and the Boston Common. It proves to be a resource, a safe space, and a pillar of support for its students. Its faculty and staff are committed to their shared mission—providing education, inspiration, and assistance to the men and women of our local communities. So many of our students are grateful for the guidance they receive from our Boston team, and recent graduate, Celly Gomes ’20—who just received her Bachelor of Science in Business Management—attributes much of her success to their dedication. She says, “The support system at Endicott was the greatest because I found hard working professionals ready to help me achieve my goals.”
Gomes is a source of inspiration herself. Her journey hasn’t been simple or easy. In fact, she’s overcome many obstacles, and is the first in her family to receive a college education. Her story is precisely the kind that the Van Loan School of Professional Studies wants to replicate. Originally from Cape Verde, Gomes moved to Portugal with her mother and sister, when she was 12 years old. When she was 15, her mother sent her and her sister to the United States, having told them that they would be staying through the holidays. Gomes soon learned that her mother had sent them to live in the U.S. permanently—aiming to provide them with an opportunity for a better life—and she joined them a few months later.
“At the beginning everything was fine. I went to high school like anybody else, learned the language, made some friends, and enjoyed being a teenager. However, during my senior year, the frustration began to settle in—my friends and classmates started to fill out their college applications. I could see their happiness and excitement; they were talking about living on campus or which colleges they wanted to attend. I wasn’t jealous; I was actually happy for them, but I was upset that I had a huge barrier preventing me from moving forward. Luckily, my high school counselor told me about Endicott’s Boston location…that was a light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I knew that I couldn’t let this opportunity escape. I visited the campus and met the staff—it didn’t feel like I was in college. It felt like I was home, in my comfort zone, and there were students in the same situation as me—it became a family.” Gomes enrolled in the bachelor’s program in 2013, and continued to work—earning below minimum wage—but managed to pay for her courses on a monthly basis.
Gomes became a mother following her first semester and needed to take some time off to adjust to her new responsibilities. “I remember when I first left school, I was always getting emails from staff saying, ‘we miss you, come back, there’s a great opportunity, something came up, you will love it.’ I never felt a lack of encouragement.” Gomes returned in the fall of 2016 to continue her studies, and she recalls going to Endicott Boston’s Resource fair, which provides students with information about available scholarships, and hosts representatives from programs that assist single mothers, like Women Infants & Children (WIC). Endicott provided me with online resources, programs for young mothers and single mothers—even transportation.”
“Through education, I was able to develop skills starting from learning how to read, write, and communicate in a different language. Learning English is not easy, and I still have a lot of difficulty, but compared to when I first started, I can say I have improved a lot. Taking difficult courses helped me think critically, I am aware of things I might face when looking for a future career. It might not be easy or it might not always go the way I expect, but would I have come this far without an education? Of course not. It’s amazing that I got a degree, but for me, this is not enough. I want to keep pushing myself towards an advanced degree. I will keep chasing dreams and opportunities, because I can see and feel that there is great fulfillment coming my way.”
“I am not sure if I have words to describe my feelings right now—graduating from college is one of my biggest accomplishments since I arrived in the States. It was a very difficult journey because I faced so many obstacles. There were times I wanted to give up due to my situation. I remember whispering to myself, ‘if I don't go to college its fine because no one in the family pursued a college education anyway, so why bother?’ I still get mad and frustrated when I think about it. Today I see it was worth the struggles that I faced because it made me who I am today: a strong, motivated, young woman. My family is happy for me, especially my mother. She is happy that I made it this far, and that I’ve pushed myself for something better and different from the rest of the family. I am where I am today thanks to her. My mother worked very hard, she went to school to learn English, so that she could pass the test to become a citizen.” Her mother was awarded citizenship one week before Gomes turned 21.
“Celly is determined to succeed and to overcome any challenges in her life,” says Director of Endicott College Boston, Marcelo Juica. “As an immigrant college graduate, Celly will be a role model to her community in Cape Verde, and in Boston—she will help other adolescents to see college as a way to achieve success. Celly's resiliency and aspiration to succeed is what makes her an amazing college student.”
Gomes says “The professors at Endicott pay attention and help every single student, regardless if it’s related to college or their outside lives. Marcelo was always pushing me forward and he informed me of every single opportunity that came his way. I can never thank him enough.”
Gomes is a mother of two young boys and a college graduate—in fact, her efforts were recognized by Endicott College and she received an award for being a hard working student and single mother. Her story is one of perseverance and hope. “It feels like I have planted a seed and now the root is starting to grow. I want my children to take that root and make it grow bigger. In other words, I want them to follow my example. I want them to understand that everything is possible even when it seems impossible. I want them to grow up with the mindset, that with an education, they can open any door.”
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