Forty-seven-year-old Louis Ribezzo is a truck driver and writer from Rhode Island. Poised to begin his last year with UWW, Ribezzo is on his way to completing his bachelor’s degree while balancing a busy life that includes long hours on the road and being a father of a four. His concentration: Journalism Studies. His advisor: Abigail Dallmann.
Every non-traditional student has a story. What’s your story?
My story started with falling into the arms of emptiness. It is that void, that vast abyss you feel when you give up on a dream. Empty. And as life continues no matter how much you fill it up with consequential or inconsequential events in your life, there is still a room that needs to be refurnished.
Living with social anxiety may have impeded my life and the decisions I made and even failed to make. But through the fortunes of self-perseverance and UWW I have found the ability once again to speak loud and clearly with the voice I always dreamed of, my writing voice. Through UWW I have been afforded a gift. This gift is wrapped in opportunity and I am deeply grateful to have received it.
What is the best part about being a UWW student for you?
Being a student here at UMASS, represents a beginning in believing in me. In my mind, I have traveled back in time. I can reach out to that little frightened boy and tell him to keep on dreaming. Then, I can reach out to that frightened teenager and tell him to value this very moment. Embrace everything school has to offer because learning is a privilege. And as my mind slowly travels back to the future I realize not everything in the past has been lost. Being a student again is a second chance to having back everything I missed out on. I revel in being a student and this time a diploma will feel less than paper in my hand as it did the first time around. My diploma will be a magic wand and all its enchantment, I will breathe in tirelessly.
What has been your favorite class at UMass Amherst so far?
Without a doubt my favorite class has been Frameworks for Understanding. What seemed like a daunting college assignment proved to be extremely cathartic and provided me with a remarkable epiphany. I am not a quitter. I always believed I was, but now I recognize I am a fighter. And although, I have been battered and bruised, I am still standing. As I wrote my portfolio, I realized every mistake I made created a learning experience. Every detour I took had become an important narrative to learn from and more importantly to share. I have begun to write and I will continue to do so. I have begun to write because I finally believe I am a writer.
What are the benefits of taking your classes online?
Without these online courses, balancing my work and family would be nearly impossible. I am a father of four wonderful children and I need to be there as much as time and life will allow. I have a chance to show my children to never give up on a dream. I also have a chance to show them how much harder it is when you do not embrace the moment you are in. I want them always to embrace their moment.
How do you balance school, work, and other responsibilities?
Working as a truck driver most of my day and evening is usurped by travel. I try to help my wife as much as possible with showers and homework. Sometimes minutia seems impossible to take care of. Therefore, I usually end up just coming home, eating, showering, and then, I am off to bed. My workdays start from 3:30 am until around 7:30 pm. Sometimes, I even come later than that so I need to get to bed early. Consequently, I end up doing the majority of my schoolwork on weekends. Thus, my wife’s help and support is immeasurable. I would not be in UWW without all of her help. She allows me to embrace my moment.
What advice do you have for other students who are finishing their degrees?
The only advice I feel validated to give to another student is to never give up. However or whatever roadblocks you encounter, endure them and never give up. The teachers here are not only brilliant but they are here as guidance to reach our own brilliance. They are invaluable to your educational growth. One of my greatest regrets was never having that connection with any of my teachers, for they can be memories of a lifetime. I am very fortunate to have as my professor and advisor Abigail Dallmann; she is simply remarkable as both. Her exuberance for teaching and for learning is infectious. From the first day, she made me feel not only welcomed as a student but she addressed me as a writer. She made up for everything I missed in school. I now know what it is for a student to admire and have love for their mentors throughout their lifetime. She does more than just assist me here at this university. She believes in me; I know this because she has said so. Abigail’s words and encouragement will never be forgotten.
Tell readers something cool about yourself that no one would guess about you.
I am still a quiet and shy guy but on Facebook, I am quite the social butterfly. I assume it is because I enjoy being read as well as making my friends laugh. It is amazing how much support and assurance friends provide on and offline, and I am truly blessed to have both. After I graduate, I intend to keep doing what I have always been doing. I will still be driving for a great company that I love and continue to love the company I keep precious in my life as well. And I will write and continue to dream. But more importantly, I will write because that is what writers do.