Dream Career, Take Two: Veronica Lopez on Making it Happen
A few weeks ago, Veronica Lopez attended the Career Expo hosted by PC’s Center for Career Education and Professional Development. Like other students there, she was excited to get help polishing her resume and to meet with potential employers. But unlike most of the other students, she was in her late 30’s, raising two children and already had a good deal of professional experience behind her.
Lopez is a student in PC’s School of Continuing Education, where she’s been working toward a bachelor’s degree in leadership development since 2014. She expects to graduate this spring – the same time her oldest child will graduate high school – and is looking forward to putting her degree to work in the business world.
Lopez is excited and optimistic about what the future holds. She also has a unique appreciation for the hard work that will be required; she’s been working hard toward this moment for nearly two decades.
Originally from Los Angeles, California, Lopez attended community college right out of high school, but didn’t finish a degree program. Her first child was born and she became busy working to support them both. She came to live in southern Massachusetts with a friend 11 years ago looking for new opportunities and began working for ADP, the payroll and human resource company, in the small business services department, where she worked until just a few months ago when she was laid off.
Though the layoff was difficult, Lopez says she is grateful to ADP. Not only did the decade working there provide her with a wealth of experience, but the support of the company’s tuition reimbursement program was what set her on the path back to college and the degree she’ll now earn in less than a year.
“I wish I had taken advantage of the tuition reimbursement program earlier, but I didn’t think I could balance work and school and family,” Lopez says. “But my Vice President at ADP had done it and he said, ‘you can too.’ When you see that other people are balancing what seems impossible, they become like an inspiration to you and you realize it’s definitely possible. Childcare, balancing life and the cost of tuition made it difficult to return to school but I knew it wasn’t impossible. I realized I had been [trying to go back to school] for years and decided that this time I was sticking with it.”
Lopez’s boss at ADP was attending PC and recommended it, so she looked into the School of Continuing Education. She says she didn’t know much about PC at the time, but after doing some research and learning that it was a Catholic school, it seemed to be a perfect fit because she had grown up Catholic.
“The opportunity felt like a calling for me to finish something I was passionate about and that was to finish school. I also didn’t realize a prestigious school like PC offered programs like the School of Continuing Education for adults like me,” Lopez says.
“Getting into a good college seemed out of reach when I was in high school, and now here I am at Providence College. The support they have for SCE students is amazing. It’s so hard for people in similar situations to mine to get back into school because of work and family. It can feel like it’s just a dream but at SCE they really work with you to make it a reality.”
Lopez says that kind of support was in full force at the Career Expo, too. By the time she left she had an updated and improved resume, a professional photo for her LinkedIn profile and she’d had several productive conversations with representatives from companies who were looking for candidates like her – all of which she’ll put to good use in starting a new career after graduation.
“My advice to others who want to earn a degree is to just go with it; sign up for one class and just do it. Don’t think about the obstacles that get in your way because through faith, life works itself out,” Lopez says.
“Apply yourself and you’ll begin to see how easy it is to get into the routine, but don’t wait. My biggest regret is that I waited, and knowing how much further I could have been by now. Going back to school has been filled with nothing but rewards for me, and PC has been such a great, supportive place to be. It will definitely be a positive influence on SCE students to come, too.”