Sisters from the Dominican Republic Develop Confidence and Earn Degrees from Berkeley College

Thursday, May 27, 2021
Contact: Chanel Donaldson
Senior Associate, Media Relations


Cruz Jaquez Sisters

Photo Caption: Sisters Gabriela (left) and Pamela (right) Cruz Jaquez of Hawthorne, NJ, Berkeley College graduates who earned an Associate of Applied Science in Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Business Administration – Management respectively, are photographed at Berkeley College's outdoor Commencement ceremony held at MetLife Stadium on May 27, 2021.

Sisters Pamela and Gabriela Cruz Jaquez of Hawthorne, NJ, moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic in 2016 with one goal in mind: to build a better life. The two left their small hometown of Tamboril, Santiago, with their father as teenagers in the hopes of accessing more opportunities.

While getting a college education was always part of the plan to creating a more prosperous future, Pamela and Gabriela said they had limited guidance on how to start their post-secondary journeys.

“I was really confused. I actually did not want to go to college right after finishing high school because I felt like I was not ready to do that step,” said Pamela, who attended her junior and senior year of high school in New Jersey.

After visiting Berkeley College, Pamela said the staff gave her the confidence to begin working on her degree. “They were showing me so much attentiveness and support. After that I really wanted to go to Berkeley so I could start a new life with a better education level,” said Pamela.

Gabriela, who completed high school in the Dominican Republic and first enrolled at a community college, decided to transfer to Berkeley because she was inspired by Pamela’s success at the institution. At the time, she had been placed in an English Language Learners (ELL) program and expected to spend a year and a half in ELL before she could begin taking courses for credit.

“I saw my sister doing well in school and she was telling me about how good Berkeley was,” said Gabriela. “So, I did not hesitate … I transferred to Berkeley.”

Family Sacrifices
Making it to Commencement is an important accomplishment for the entire Cruz Jaquez family. Gabriela and Pamela had to leave their mother behind in the Dominican Republic when they moved, and they say not having her with them for the last five years has been difficult. But, splitting up temporarily was a hardship their parents were willing to endure in order to ensure that Pamela and Gabriela could pursue opportunities in the United States.

“My parents sacrificed everything to bring us here, and their main goal is for us to have careers and to succeed in life,” said Gabriela, who noted that Commencement reflects the payoff for the hard work and joint sacrifices of the whole family.

The Cruz Jaquez’ hope to be reunited permanently by later this year. In the meantime the sisters are excited that their mom was able to travel to New Jersey from the Dominican Republic to attend their Commencement in person at  MetLife Stadium on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

Cruz Jaquez Family

Photo Caption: The Cruz Jaquez family is photographed at Berkeley College's outdoor Commencement ceremony held at MetLife Stadium on May 27, 2021.

A Future of Possibilities
Pamela earned both an Associate’s and Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration Management from Berkeley. She currently works as a front desk coordinator at a dental office in Ridgewood, NJ, and is pursuing a career in dental administration. Pamela would also like to open her own business in the future.

Gabriela completed an Associate’s in Criminal Justice and is currently working toward a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice with a concentration in Social Welfare. She plans to become a social worker.

The sisters say they will continue to elevate and create the life their parents dreamed for them to have.

“My mom always said, ‘you have to go to school,’ because it really enhances your possibilities in life,” said Gabriela. “Coming to Berkeley is the best decision I made.”

Berkeley College celebrates its 90th anniversary in 2021. The theme commemorating this milestone is “Empowering Lives for 90 Years!” Visit the 90th Anniversary webpage for more information.

About Berkeley College
Berkeley College, founded in 1931, is a career-focused institution accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education that offers students Master’s, Bachelor’s, and Associate’s degree and Certificate programs in more than 20 career fields. The College also offers continuing education programs to enhance career credentials.

Berkeley College has campuses in Newark, Paramus, Woodbridge, and Woodland Park, NJ, as well as in Midtown Manhattan and White Plains, NY, with more than 4,900 students enrolled. In addition, Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. U.S. News & World Report has named Berkeley College among the Best Colleges for Online Bachelor’s Programs and among the Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Veterans, for eight consecutive years. The website address is

The mission of Berkeley College is to empower students to achieve lifelong success in dynamic careers.


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