Milagros Gonzalez wears many hats – as a mother, a Binghamton City School District employee, a SUNY Broome student and, most recently, as an intern with a community art program.
This semester, she will add two more: winner of the Norman R. McConney Jr. Award for EOP Student Excellence and college graduate.
“I feel accomplished and proud. I can’t believe it’s almost over now!” said the Human Services major, who will complete her associate’s degree in December. “I was so scared to attend college and now look at me: I’m ready for the world. I don’t regret pushing myself to do it.”
Milagros will receive the Norman R. McConney Jr. Award from the SUNY Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) on Oct. 17, and plans to bring her son with her to the inaugural ceremony at the SUNY Global Center in Manhattan. Its namesake was a long-time champion of minority students and chief of staff for Assemblyman Arthur O. Eve. An EOP graduate himself from the University at Albany, McConney helped push through the creation of the SUNY-wide EOP.
It’s a busy semester for Milagros, who works in the mailroom for her local school district. In addition to her job, her classes and raising her sons, she is currently interning with Mosaic Mafia, working with teens on a public art project at Columbus Park. The grassroots program, established in 2014 by local artist Emily Jablon, gives at-risk teens their first paid jobs creating public mosaic artwork for the community.
A first-generation college student, Milagros had long wanted to pursue education, but needed to wait until her two children were old enough; a promotion at her job also gave her the flexibility she needed to pursue a degree.
She identifies as a non-traditional student, meaning that she is older than many of her peers who attend college directly out of high school – a fact that initially made the college experience a little daunting. EOP has provided her with needed support along the way, both academically and personally, and she takes pride in a 3.6 grade point average.
College has provided her with opportunities she never anticipated. In the summer of 2018, she took part in the SUNY Stands with Puerto Rico Service Learning opportunity, working with nonprofits to aid in rebuilding efforts there. Learn more about her experience in Puerto Rico here.
She plans on taking a break in the spring of 2020 and then heading back to class next fall – perhaps at Binghamton University, or one of the partner schools in SUNY Broome’s Bachelor Partnership Center.
“I’m a busy parent and I have a lot on my plate,” she said.
Her ultimate goal is to become a social worker, perhaps in a school setting. Earning her associate’s degree puts her a step closer to that dream – and inspires confidence for her family’s future.
“I’m the first one in my family to get a degree. Now my niece and nephew attend the college, in nursing and engineering,” she reflected. “They’re going to succeed and I’m going to succeed. We’re breaking that cycle.”