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Student Spotlight – Madeline Vera, Lehman College, Lehman Adult Learning Center

June 24, 2014 | Members, News

In her own words: This year I have encountered many challenges. One the most challenging was the death of my great aunt. This was difficult because she raised me, and I was living with her. However, something great was in progress at the same time as my great aunt’s passing. Training for CUNY Service Corps was beginning, and it was required to continue with the program. I went to the trainings during the day, and I stayed with my great aunt overnight in the hospital until her passing. The trainings helped me keep my eyes on my long term goal.

I went to Amy Olsen, my Service Corps Manager, one day because I was afraid the recent death of my great aunt was going to result in me being homeless, dropping out of school, and ultimately removing myself from the Service Corps program. However, my optimism helped me believe that I could find assistance and support. That day while I was waiting for Amy, Amanda Dubois spoke to me about my situation. She asked Amy to call the person in charge of Student Housing. Amy not only did this, but she also walked with me to the Vice President of Student Affairs’ office. She did not have to do this. I am a college student, and an adult. She was not holding my hand by doing this. She was showing her support for me at a time when I really needed it. In reality, she was leading by example. She was demonstrating the very care I was hoping to show the students with whom I would someday work. That day I changed my fears into hope because someone else saw my long term goals, and realized I needed help now to ensure I could achieve my goals.

Instead of quitting CUNY Service Corps and college that day, I saw both as intertwined and necessary for my growth. I knew that I needed both to reach my goal of making New York City a better educated city. Working at CUNY Service Corps was never a burden, but a candle flame guiding my every step during a dark time. It was a challenge to remember I needed the flame and to keep it burning; however, I knew that was my only way out of the dark tunnel.

My placement at the Lehman Adult Learning Center helped me keep the candle lit. I never graduated from high school, so I took the GED exam to earn my high school equivalency diploma. Initially I thought my life was over when I was kicked out of school during my senior year, but I refused to accept that was my destiny. I decided I would graduate from college, and I would help others who were struggling to get an education. Everyday at the Adult Learning Center, I interact with adults who have the insatiable desire to learn. Many of them have difficult life situations, but they see their education the same way as I do. Going to the Adult Learning Center gives them hope, and the learning environment the faculty creates redefines and promotes success. Success here is not just passing an exam, but it is also learning other important life skills such as managing your time and asking for help. Success is using your strengths or your interests to find ways to improve your under-developed areas. This is what the teachers and I try to help the students do.

I was diagnosed with narcolepsy on the 15th of March, 2014. At first I was very emotional about the whole situation because I had the symptoms for many years, but I was diagnosed with other ailments and treated for them. However, none of these prior treatments really helped and this new diagnosis brought some clarity. Throughout life I just started to figure out ways to work with my challenges rather than try fighting them. I sought help from counseling and the office for students with disabilities. However, I never felt they made that much of an impact until this year. At work I encourage students to seek the assistance necessary, so I have to do the same for myself. I have to self-advocate and keep people updated on my health and situation. Working with CUNY Service Corps helped me further develop my communication skills because I wanted to be an active part of it so much that I kept hanging on even when it was difficult. CUNY Service Corps, Lehman College, and even my challenges that I have worked with have helped me redefine success.

Success is not luck. Success does not happen by chance. Success is a process. Sometimes you need to recede to widen the scope of your vision, and then you can proceed. In order to be successful, you need to use your long term goals to motivate you and to light your path, so you can take the steps necessary to get to the light at the end of the dark tunnel. CUNY Service Corps and my placement at the Lehman Adult Learning Center helped me keep that long term goal at the forefront, so it has guided my path and helped me become a better student as well as leader. Phil Collins said, ” In learning you will teach, and in teaching you will learn.” This opportunity has been the manifestation of those words.

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