Berkeley Today Stories
First Generation College Alumna Grateful for the Support of Berkeley College Faculty and Staff
As a first-generation college student Vanessa Gomez couldn’t turn to family members for advice on how to navigate the world of higher education. Instead, she looked to faculty, academic advisors, and career counselors at Berkeley College for guidance and support. She wasn’t disappointed with the results.
"The small class sizes at Berkeley were a huge advantage for me because the professors knew my name and they knew exactly what type of help I needed," said Ms. Gomez, who graduated with a BS in Business Administration in 2009. "My career counselors also knew me personally, and could speak about my resume without ever having to bring it up on the computer. That always impressed me."
Through a combination of on-site and online classes, Ms. Gomez earned her degree in three years while holding down two part-time jobs and back-to-back internships.
As a Berkeley College Blogger, she offered advice and encouragement to her peers. Shortly after she graduated, her mother, inspired by her daughter’s achievements, returned to school to earn certification as a Pharmacy Technician.
"It was especially hard for my mom because English is her second language (she is a native of El Salvador), but she pulled it off and graduated with honors," Ms. Gomez said.
Ms. Gomez credits Berkeley College for her heightened sense of accountability which she carried into the workplace. Through Berkeley’s required internship program she was placed with Tempo Networks, LLC. The Newark-based entertainment company manages a television channel that broadcasts the music and culture of the Caribbean.
"It was a fast-paced environment where you had to be on your toes, because things changed from hour to hour," Ms. Gomez said. "I wore a lot of hats – helping with marketing, accounting, production, and editing. It was such a great experience because I got to work in so many different departments."
Her internship turned into a full-time position, which she held for eight months before moving on to her current job as Administrative Manager at Ecuadorian Rainforest, a Belleville, NJ, company that supplies raw materials from South America to the nutraceutical industry. Ms. Gomez is currently researching graduate programs and plans to return to college to earn a Master’s degree in International Finance.
Maria Ortega-Cubas, a career counselor at the Garret Mountain Campus, said that Ms. Gomez’ success is in large part due to the fact that she was proactive in reaching out to the College’s support services for help.
“Vanessa had the motivation and the drive to succeed – our job was to give her the tools,” Ms. Ortega-Cubas said.