A proposal coordinator for UMass Medical Center, 36 year old Priscilla Vazquez of Worcester, MA is the winner of a $1000 UWW Scholarship. Working full-time, overtime or often 2 jobs to put herself through school, Priscilla earned an associates in graphic design and is now finishing her degree with a focus in Arts Management. Her adviosr is Jamal Watson.
Every non-traditional age student has a story. What’s your story?
I had never intended to go to college after high school for many reasons (primarily financial ones). After graduation from high school, I worked two jobs and paid my way through community college to receive an associate’s degree in graphic design. After receiving the degree, I dedicated myself to the fantastic jobs I was able to receive, never working less than 70 hours a week. Eventually, I went back to school in attempts to receive a bachelor’s degree in English (working towards my goal of becoming a children’s librarian), yet unfortunately, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, so I stopped attending school to be her caregiver.
Years later, I was frustrated at the lack of opportunities I could go for without a formal education, and I also realized that my dream truly was to become a librarian. The older I got, the more focused I was on helping others through literature works. With great encouragement from coworkers at my current job, I decided to attend UMass Amherst UWW and finally get my bachelor’s degree.
Why did you choose UMass Amherst UWW to complete your degree?
UMass Amherst UWW was perfect for me because it allowed me to continue working full-time while working towards a degree completely online. It also accepted many transfer credits and job experience credits which allowed me to graduate in one year.
What's the best part of being a UWW student for you?
The best part about being a UWW student is the ability to take all my courses online, but also that the physical campus is not too far for me to visit if I needed to. It’s difficult to identify a favorite class, since all of them have been fantastic with great instructors and classmates.
What does winning this scholarship mean to you?
Winning the scholarship really encouraged me to continue on the educational path that I’m on – it came at a time when I really felt I needed to take a break from school. It also gave me the confidence that I could communicate the importance of my education and be heard. I used the scholarship towards an extra class. I have three classes this semester and the scholarship definitely helped pay for it! It made a difference in terms of keeping me on my personal graduation schedule -- graduating with a bachelors degree in one year! I started last spring as a junior with my transfer credits, and I haven't taken a break since last Spring (I'm definitely ready for graduation!).
How do you balance work, school and other responsibilities?
I currently work as a proposal coordinator for UMass Medical School which involves many aspects of the proposal process – these proposals are to help our business units work with state agencies on healthcare policies. I also work as a freelance typesetter for scientific journals, and a freelance book reviewer. I try to do some volunteer work with nonprofit organizations within my area. While it sounds difficult to balance, I like the challenge of trying to do as much as I can while spending time with my family, and enjoying my hobbies (reading, watching movies, staying physically active).