Helping Students Succeed: Our Proud Graduates
The Gateway Community College Foundation helps students succeed. The students bring the drive, determination, and diligence. The Foundation offers assistance where it's needed to help students keep pushing forward to achieve their academic goals.
Their stories are inspiring, encouraging, and quite often remarkable. We share a handful of them—knowing that there are thousands more proud alumni of Gateway making their mark in the world, and many more in Gateway's classrooms today, with eyes fixed on tomorrow.
"Gateway gave me confidence in myself. I will always remember Gateway as giving me a new beginning.”
A New Beginning
Pauline Dorsi '14 graduated from Southern Connecticut State University in 1989 with a BA in history. She worked at Health Net as a claims processor and became interested in procedure codes and diagnosis codes and how they work together to pay claims properly.
Although she loved her job, she unfortunately was laid off in 2011. She started at Gateway in 2012 through a program called TAA (Trade Adjustment Assistance), a federal program that provides a path for employment growth and opportunity through aid to U.S. workers who have lost their jobs as a result of foreign trade.
"I had the opportunity to go to school," she said. "I was very fortunate the state paid for my education. I will always be grateful for that."
Because she was interested in codes, she majored in BOT: Medical Administrative Assistant. As part of her coursework she took Medical Coding I & II, which were instrumental in helping her to get her new job as a Medicare Biller/Analyst at Milford Hospital.
According to Dorsi, “Gateway gave me confidence in myself. After not being in school for 23 years, I was invited to join the Phi Theta Kappa, Honor Society. I was honored to be a part of that—you need at least 3.5 to be invited to join. I will always remember Gateway as giving me a new beginning.”
Dorsi also credits her professors for her renewed success. “The BOT professors are fabulous!" she said. "They really care about you and take the time to make sure you are prepared for the working world. I was fortunate to have a student worker job. I was able to make some spending money while gaining some real world experience. Gateway is a great school and a good opportunity to make a new beginning. They offer many classes at various times. I am so glad I chose Gateway for my path into the future.”
“It was difficult working and going to school, especially with our three year old at home. But my wife and her family have been so incredibly supportive and all the professors and staff at Gateway are really wonderful."
The Power Of Perseverance
Looking back, even Cesar Rivaben '14 is a little astonished at how far he has come in such a short period of time.
Having grown up in Buenos Aires, Cesar immigrated to the United States in August of 2000. He arrived with $200 in his pocket and spoke no English. On May 22, Cesar walked across the stage at Woolsey Hall to receive his Associates degree in Business Administration from Gateway Community College. After first arriving in the U.S., he worked various odd jobs in California, from roofing to dishwashing, just to get by. “In 2002, I got married and finally found a job in sales working for Bob’s Discount Furniture,” says Rivaben. The position was contingent upon him learning English within 90 days. “It was my goal and I knew that being in this type of job environment would help me excel in English,” said Rivaben.
He worked for Bob’s for five years while also working at Raymour & Flanigan. He also began to run a successful cleaning business franchise. “Sometimes I was working nearly a hundred hours a week between being at Bob’s during the day and running the business in the evening. But I was doing well."
Then, according to Cesar, everything "went sideways" in 2008 and 2009 with the economy. “We had to move in with my in-laws and I returned to working in retail at Pilgrim Furniture,” he said. His mother-in-law encouraged him to go back to school. Rivaben had received his GED in 2012 since he only completed two years of high school in Argentina. He recalls, “I was so scared about going back to school because English was not my first language. But I knew I had to try."
Rivaben registered for two classes at Gateway in the Fall of 2012, and then took two more classes during the Winter session. For the last two years, he has been taking five classes during the Fall and Spring semesters and two classes each during the Winter and Summer sessions.
“It was difficult working and going to school, especially with our three-year-old at home. But my wife and her family have been so incredibly supportive and all the professors and staff at Gateway are really wonderful." Leaving Gateway with his Associate’s degree in hand and an exemplary GPA, Rivaben will begin classes in the Fall to complete his Bachelor’s degree at Quinnipiac University. He hopes to pursue a career in commercial banking.
“I’m very excited but also sad to leave because Gateway has been like another family for me. Of course it’s all part of the journey and I just hope it keeps going in the same upward direction." Rivaben eventually hopes that he can motivate young high school students to stay determined and persevere in school by sharing his story.
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"Like most 17-year-olds, I didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew is that it would require a college education."
Building a Better Future
Growing up in the Bronx, Edwin Martinez '01 loved nothing better than tagging along with his uncle, a superintendent, on repair jobs. “I thought that was the most awesome job,” he recalls, “but my uncle encouraged me to aspire to do, and be, more.”
That experience was the start of the journey that eventually led him to Gateway Community College and his current position as a manufacturing engineer at Space-Craft Manufacturing, a New-Haven based aerospace company.
When Edwin was 11 years old, his widowed mother moved him and his sister to New Haven. He graduated from Wilbur Cross High School in 1996. “Like most 17-year-olds, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life,” Edwin said. “All I knew is that it would require a college education.”
“I read just about every Gateway pamphlet. When I came across the one about Manufacturing Engineering Technology, I knew right away—this is it!” Edwin credits the financial aid he received with enabling him to continue his college experience at Gateway, where became involved with several student groups, including the Black Student Union and the Organization of Latin American Students, and was elected president of the Student Government Association.
After earning an associate degree in 2001, he continued his education journey at Central Connecticut State University. He remains an active member of the New Haven community, serving on the New Haven Youth Commission Board and on the Executive Board of FLECHAS Inc., a cultural organization that promotes the African influence on Puerto Rican culture.
The first in his family to attend college, Edwin credits Gateway with helping him build the foundation for the success he’s achieved. “I’m grateful to the College for providing me with an outstanding education and a promising future.”
"I came to believe it was cool to be back in school. Everyone was down to earth, and I loved the person education was allowing me to become."
Paying It Forward
Bethany Watkins knows firsthand how getting a scholarship can help make someone’s educational dreams come true. That’s how it happened for her when she decided to pursue an associate’s degree after she completed high school, entered the workforce, and started her family. And that’s what attracted her to her first job after she graduated from Gateway Community College—program officer at the Community Foundation of Greater New Haven. She spent three years there aiding others to secure the financial assistance they needed to attend college by helping distribute over $500,000 in scholarships.
While she has since moved on, she remains connected to helping students secure financial aid by serving on Gateway Community College Foundation’s Scholarship Committee. She even went on to pursue a four-year degree. While her mother always encouraged her, she was particularly inspired by three Gateway professors—each in different subjects—who instilled in her the importance of learning and the beauty of having passion for both education and humanity. “I came to believe it was ‘cool’ to be back in school,” she explains. “Everyone was down to earth, and I loved the person education was allowing
me to become.”
Watkins truly embraces her work on the Foundation’s Scholarship Committee. “Because of my own experiences—both personal and professional—I’m able to provide insight into the challenges many people face in pursuing their educational dreams. In a way, I’m ‘paying it forward’ by helping students who deserve the education that Gateway can provide.”
"Gateway was great. They want to help you succeed They spent time with me, and they cared about what I really wanted to do."
Fulfilling A Dream, Helping Others
When Sam Osei '06 came to the United States from Ghana to visit his sister, little did he realize he was embarking on a journey to a career he never dreamt possible. He became interested in nursing, helping to care for his terminally ill father. The problem was that in his native land nursing wasn’t viewed as a “suitable” profession for men.
After earning his GED in the U.S., he started taking post-graduate business classes at Housatonic Community College. During that time, he worked at a skilled nursing facility, where he soon came to realize that nursing was his true passion. That ultimately led him to Gateway.
“Gateway was great,” Osei said. “They want to help you succeed. They spent time with me, and they cared about what I really wanted to do.” Sam graduated from Gateway’s nursing program in 2006 and became a registered nurse at Gaylord Hospital, where he now serves as the evening team leader on the spinal cord unit. Within two short years, his dedication and professionalism resulted in him receiving a Nightingale Award, the state’s highest nursing recognition. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Charter Oak State College.
Osei works as a part-time outreach coordinator for Gateway’s nursing program, helping strengthen nursing career pathways by reaching out to local high schools and recruiting prospective nursing students to Gateway. He initiated and led “Gateway’s Men Embrace Nursing” Initiative, and is a member of Gateway’s Nursing Mentoring Program, the goal of which is to match graduates with enrolled nursing students to help ensure their academic success. He also wrote the “Men in Nursing at GCC” section of the College’s website and has appeared on local TV shows, where he promotes nursing careers for males. Finally, he has returned to Ghana several times, donating textbooks to a nursing school there. His outreach efforts were recognized by the Gateway Community College Foundation, which named him a Distinguished Alumnus during its 2009 Annual Hall of Fame Induction and Reception.