MEET OUR GRADUATES: Reflections of Lady Franco, M.S.W. Graduate

Lady Franco posing for the camera

“Although this last year has been hard, the support of classmates and professors has empowered me to see that I can accomplish anything,” says Lady Franco.

As a first-generation graduate student, earning my M.S.W. in clinical social work, I couldn't be more grateful for the many opportunities I’ve had and the achievements I’ve accomplished during my years at RIC. 

I grew up in a rural area close to one of the biggest cities in Colombia. I had been working on my bachelor’s degree in chemistry for one year but suddenly had to flee my country with my two-year-old child. I arrived in the United States in 2016. 

A year after our arrival, I took my first step as an English language learner at Dorcas International Institute. In 2018 I decided to further my education by enrolling in RIC’s Outreach Program, where I not only attended English classes but earned certification in case management. I later enrolled in the ESL Intensive Program to reinforce my English.  

Despite the struggles of juggling work, motherhood and classes, the opportunities I found at Rhode Island College fueled my determination to pursue a bachelor’s degree in social work.

The experience of relocating to a foreign country, where my family and I were assigned a dedicated social worker, opened my eyes to the impact of social work on immigrants. Our social worker’s dedication to helping us learn how to navigate the system, settle in and find new opportunities, created the desire in me to pay it forward and support others who are facing similar challenges.

Lady and her three sons
Lady Franco and her three sons

I earned my B.S.W. degree at RIC in 2023. Now I have completed the second chapter of my journey with an M.S.W. degree. My specialty is clinical mental health counseling, a field of social work that fascinates me. In Rhode Island, the demand for mental health providers is high. I know that my bilingualism and RIC education will be a great asset to my community. 

Looking back, I know that my experiences at RIC have been stepping stones empowering me and broadening my knowledge. During my time here, I found a sense of purpose and the belief that I could pursue my dreams. RIC provided the resources and support I needed, such as Learning for Life, the Unity Center and the Writing Center, to help me complete my degree successfully. The college also offered scholarships, a food pantry, counseling and even assistance with assignments.

Although this last year has been hard, the support of classmates and professors, especially Professors Stefan Battle, Joise Garzon, Dawn Maguire and Aswood Bousseau, has empowered me to see that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to.

My heart swells with pride for my children, especially my eldest son. His decision to find a job after he finished high school last year to support our family while I pursued my M.S.W. internship at Butler Hospital fills me with gratitude and admiration. 

My story is a testimony to the transformative power of perseverance. My experiences have made me stronger and more empathetic, qualities that are crucial in my profession. And my memories of RIC will stay with me forever. I feel honored and equipped to represent my community and advocate for those who feel voiceless.