In high school, Gabriella Santana had no idea what she wanted to do with her life.
She knew she wanted to become more independent and go to college away from her hometown of Newburgh, and SUNY Broome’s campus and Student Village appealed to her. The larger questions – major, career – remained unresolved, until she reflected on her own young life, her journey so far.
She considered all the people who helped her through the years. Gabriella has a learning disability, and her school counselors and others played a major role in helping her get the services she needed to succeed.
“I wouldn’t have made it without them,” she said. That realization helped her find a major in Human Services, and the goal of transferring on to study Human Development; she has already committed to the University at Albany for Spring 2019. She isn’t quite sure yet where her career path will take her, but she knows one thing for certain.
“I want to be that person to help someone, whether through an organization or as an advocate,” she said.
A Resident Assistant in the Student Village, Gabriella already strives to be a leader and a helper to her peers. Initially, she never considered becoming an RA, believing herself to be too unfocused and scattered. After her roommate, Victoria Celli, joined the Residence Life staff, Gabriella’s competitive streak kicked in and she decided that she wanted to become more involved in the Student Village.
She joined the Residence Hall Association and helped organize programs for her fellow students before becoming an RA herself. She appreciates the opportunity, which has allowed her to grow as a person and as a future human services professional.
“It taught me a lot about dealing with people and handling situations, and balancing my personal life with school and work,” she said. “It takes time and dedication.”
She finds her classes interesting, particularly psychology, which inspires her to reflect on motivations, thoughts and behaviors. Biology Professor Diane Kelly also proved an inspiration; “She definitely taught me to work hard,” she said.
Psychology & Human Services Professor Margherita Rossi alerted Gabriella to another opportunity, which she jumped at: an internship in the human services field with BC Hears, short for Broome County Higher Education Access, Retention and Success. A partnership program among Binghamton University, SUNY Broome and Broome County Promise Zone, BC Hears uses mentorship, tutoring and community engagement to encourage adults to further their education, whether their GED or a college degree.
As an intern, Gabriella recently went to Harpursville for outreach purposes, where she spoke to adults about their educational possibilities. She also tutors reading comprehension at the Broome County Library.
Adult learners weren’t initially a population she considered in her future career, but she is enjoying the experience.
“It gave me a new perspective on what ‘community-based’ really means,” she said of her internship.
As she prepares to transfer to Albany, she looks back at her SUNY Broome experience and has no regrets.
“Of course, there were times when I wanted to quit and go home, but coming here was the best decision I made. It gave me more time to grow and be the person I wanted to be,” she reflected. “I would have gotten lost if I went directly to a four-year school.”