“I’m happy to see my father reach his goal of having all four of his children earn a degree from Rhode Island College,” Duarte says.
Rhode Island College has been known for having a diverse campus community. Veronica Duarte, a Cape Verdean who moved to Rhode Island in 2012 and graduated from RIC with a degree in healthcare administration this spring, is vivid proof of it.
A first-generation college student, Duarte says that when she arrived in this country, everything was very different, especially the culture, and “starting school as an immigrant felt like being born again. You have to relearn everything,” she says.
Though her transition to life in the United States wasn’t easy, she has diligently worked hard toward her goals. First, get a college degree and make her father proud; second, bring her mother and siblings to Rhode Island from Cape Verde; and third, be able to work in health care. Currently, she is a patient care coordinator at Highbar, a physical therapy clinic in Pawtucket.
“I’m grateful that I’ve been able to impact my younger siblings’ paths, as well, because they are going to come here and go for the same opportunities I’ve had,” she says. “I’ve had a passion for health, especially in this country where health care and insurance is such a complicated thing.”
With the help of grants, financial aid and her full-time job, Duarte has been able to support herself and go to RIC for the last seven years. She says that at RIC not only are the teachers “awesome and very supportive, they always go the extra mile to help students.”
“At RIC I received help from the PEP program and Learning for Life. They were always there to assist with anything I needed,” she says. “Now I feel accomplished; like I can do anything. My major and what I’ve learned impacted me in a good way, as well. The skills I’ve learned have prepared me for the real world. Now, I’m able to use that knowledge to solve problems beyond the classroom.”
Duarte says she’s happy to see her father reach his goal of having all four of his children earn a degree from Rhode Island College. “My brother graduated from RIC with a degree in justice studies last summer and is now about to graduate from the police academy,” she says. “My second brother is still going to RIC for computer science, and my youngest sister is in her first year of the nursing program at RIC.”
“Every accomplishment we have, my father feels like it’s his own,” she says. “My mom is still learning how things work in the United States, but she’s very proud of me and makes sure she tells me that every single day.”
Now that her time as an undergraduate student at RIC has come to an end, Duarte says she cannot help but feel overwhelmed by all the changes happening in her life. At the same time, she is extremely proud of everything she has done to get here.
“The day I received my cap and gown I literally sat down and cried,” she says. “I couldn’t believe I was so close to graduating after everything I’ve been through.”
This young woman, who speaks four languages – Portuguese, Creole, Spanish and English, says she’d like to give back by assisting patients who don’t speak English.
“I never had the stomach to be a nurse or a doctor,” she says. “But in healthcare administration, I can be of help outside the operating room. I hope to work at Blackstone Valley Community Health Care, so I can help more of the Cape Verdean and Hispanic communities there.”
Find out more about the healthcare administration program at RIC.