In 1979, Azorean education was only mandatory until graduation from sixth grade. At twelve years old, I was absolutely devastated because I was not allowed to continue my education. I spent my
days in my room reading hundreds of books and dreaming of a life I thought was unreachable. Fortunately, this only continued for a few months until the fateful day my family and I moved to the United States on April 1, 1980. This move provided me a second chance to pursue my dream to continue my education.

When I started high school, however, I realized my dream would soon be crushed again. Moving to a new country was not enough to change my father’s opinion about the importance of education and he was adamant about not allowing my education after the mandatory age of sixteen. Consequently, at fifteen, I started working to help my family financially, while trying to convince my father to let me continue my education. After many heated discussions, my father agreed to let me finish high school, but not attend college.

My college education dream was delayed, but not forgotten. My first job as a high school freshmen was working as a nurse’s aide for Martha Rondileau, the late wife of Adrian Rondileau, the late president of Bridgewater State University. A couple of years after she passed away, I began working part-time at Bridgewater State University and then full-time after I graduated from high school. Working in the academic arena presented my next opportunity to pursue my education.

Margarida Baganha Vieira
MSM, CASP Director, University Services Bridgewater State University

Thirteen years after graduating from high school, now married with a young daughter, I decided to pursue my college education dream once again. I earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Management Science as a full-time student at Bridgewater State University while working full-time at the University. My dream did not end there. A few years later I earned a Master’s Degree in Management Science, also at Bridgewater State University, while continuing to evolve in my professional career at the University.

Today, I am pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Higher Education Leadership at Johnson and Wales University and expect completion in May, 2017. To say that this is beyond the dream and imagination of the devastated twelve-year girl from São Miguel is an understatement. I owe all I have accomplished to the sacrifices my parents made to give their children a better future and I have no doubt my father would be very proud of the woman I have become.

I encourage my fellow immigrants to set their goals high and follow their dreams not allowing challenges and obstacles to deter their determination to accomplish all they are capable of.

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