“I have heard my hometown, which is predominantly Hispanic, referred to as the ‘bottom of the barrel’ or the ‘city of the damned,’” says Rosana Urbaez ’14 (communication/psychology) about growing up in Lawrence, MA. “Not many people go beyond its tight borders. Most end up dropping out of school, having children and being forced into minimum wage jobs,” she says, noting the cycle of poverty she has witnessed “one too many times.”
By the time Urbaez started Notre Dame High School, her mother had to go on disability due to illness. Urbaez took a job to contribute to the family income. Very quickly, receiving a college degree became a priority.
“UMass Amherst is the complete opposite of my small Catholic school. I chose to attend because, having experienced a small knit community, I was ready for something bigger. It was everything I was looking for, despite the financial challenges I knew I would face. Whether that meant multiple jobs or taking out various loans, I am as determined as they come.”
Communication is one of Urbaez’s passions. “I’m interested in going into journalism at some point. There’s a big deficiency in the field—much of the journalism we see today is largely based on corporate interests. I would like to explore this ambiguous topic.” But before she tackles that field, she plans “to become a family and marriage therapist first and then later pursue a graduate degree in journalism,” says Urbaez.
“I love to listen to people and experience vicariously the lives of others through stories. I love to organize and help others organize their lives,” says Urbaez. “It's something that has always come naturally to me.” She’s is already getting lots of experience in that area. As a peer advisor in the Psychology Department, she helps majors and minors with class selections and makes sure they’re on track. She has worked as a research assistant in the Rudd Adoption Laboratory. She also is a residential assistant, working closely with more than 30 students.
This year Urbaez received SBS’s West End House Scholarship. Established by husband and wife Henry Barr ’68 (government) and Andrea Barr ’68 (education), this award goes to students with financial need, with a preference to those who are the first in their family to attend college. “This scholarship helped me and my family in tremendous ways. It allowed me to take out fewer loans, which have been ruling my life ever since I arrived at UMass. My success is contingent on having those around me believe in my success, and with help from scholarships like this, it can become a reality for me.”
Speaking about her UMass experience, Urbaez doesn’t hold back. “It is the best thing that ever happened to me. There are so many different people from every walk of life. There’s never a dull moment. I urge people to come in with a positive and open mind. UMass has so much to offer—you wouldn't want to let any of it go to waste.”