Every student faces obstacles on the path toward achieving their educational goals, but few face the type of daunting challenges seen by one student in our Photonics Certificate Program. In addition to having to temporarily move herself and her two young children into an emergency shelter, Claudia had to juggle the endless stresses of a limited budget and no transportation. But she refused to give up and her resolve inspired a host of benefactors to act in her support, providing a computer and helping her get her driver's license.

The following is a letter Claudia wrote in gratitude to them all: The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Photonics Society, the International Society for Optics and Photonics (SPIE), the Optical Society (OSA), Stonehill College and her teachers in the photonics program.

My name is Claudia, and I am currently enrolled in the Advanced Manufacturing & Integrated Photonics Certificate Program at Stonehill College. Since the beginning of the program, I have been very thankful for every opportunity that has come my way. Getting accepted and being able to meet the professors has been truly amazing. When Melissa Ratliff, dean of Graduate Admission at Stonehill, contacted me and told me about the  donations you had contributed, I was so amazed and thankful.

I am a single mother of twins who are 3. I became a mother at 20 years old and I did not have my high school diploma or anything really going for myself. Around the beginning of 2018, I finally got my high school equivalency credential. I always knew I wanted to go to college, but I never felt like I was good enough or would even be accepted.

Towards the end of 2018, I had to put my kids and myself in an emergency shelter. At that moment, I gave up on my education. They placed us in a few different shelters for the first year until we were placed in Brockton, Massachusetts. I was far away from my family, my friends, and I felt so alone.

One day I woke up and told myself this is not the life I want, and I started attending MassHire in Brockton. I was going to MassHire for 6 months when the director informed me of an amazing opportunity that was going to ultimately change me and my children’s lives forever. They kept telling me I was a perfect candidate for the certificate program because I was so intrigued with mathematics and science. I went full force to get into the program and when I finally got accepted, my life changed! My home life was hard, but when I was in class, I felt in my element. I felt like I had a purpose.

When class started, I realized my struggles at home were going to affect my class work. Finding someone to watch my children has been a struggle and getting back and forth to classes was even more of a struggle. I did not have my driver's permit. I barely make enough money from welfare to afford the extra money for the bus. There were some points where I wanted to give up, and then I looked at my kids and realized this struggle will come and go. That is when I put my faith in God’s hands and that was the best decision I made thus far.

When Melissa from Stonehill called and told me how you came together and wanted to pay for my driver's license and offer me a computer, I was shocked. I have never been one to ask for help, so to be offered anything was breathtaking. I could not even begin to express how thankful and lucky I was and still am. I cannot thank you enough or show my gratitude. I am truly blessed/grateful to be enrolled in this program! Everyone has helped me in more ways than I could ever imagine. Your donations helped me get my driver's permit and soon to be my driver's license. My children and I are so grateful. You have changed my life and theirs and I wanted to give thanks for everything.

Thank you for the help and helping me prosper! 

Sincerely with much love,
Claudia and family