Yahaira Morales
Class of 2019
"I chose Cazenovia College because Caz accepted my credits, offered scheduling options that worked for me and was more affordable compared to other colleges."
If you ask a professor what qualities make up a great student many would put perseverance, diligence, dedication, and enthusiasm at the top of the list. All of these qualities could be used to describe human services major Yahaira Morales, who is enrolled in Cazenovia College's partnership program with Hudson Valley Community College.

Yahaira lives in Albany, New York, not far from her childhood hometown of Bronx, New York. One member of a family of seven, Yahaira's parents worked hard to provide for their family and make ends meet. Her parents' work ethic and perseverance made an impression on Yahaira, who now successfully juggles a full-time job with earning her bachelor's degree part-time.

New Priorities
Yahaira's priorities weren't always focused on her education, though. Growing up, Yahaira struggled in school—due to peer pressure, money issues and lack of motivation—and she eventually dropped out. "I chose work as my main priority instead," explains Yahaira.

She realized, however, that she would have access to more job opportunities and ability for professional growth if she had a higher education level. Before she lost her mother to a battle with cancer, Yahaira promised her she would finish school.

It wasn't easy getting back on track and Yahaira experienced a few setbacks, but she never gave up. Determined to pursue her educational goals, she eventually met them, and then surpassed them. "After receiving my associate degree, I realized with a little more hard work and dedication, I could get my bachelor's degree," she says.

Yahaira recognized that having a bachelor's degree would allow her to be more competitive in the job market, and make a difference in her future financially. As she was finishing her associate degree, Yahaira began researching her options for the next transition in her life, enrolling in an undergraduate degree program.

Cazenovia College
Yahaira's professors and advisors recommended she look at Cazenovia College, which ended up being Yahaira's first choice for many reasons. "I chose Cazenovia College because Caz accepted my credits, offered scheduling options that worked for me and was more affordable compared to other colleges," she explains.

"The staff at Cazenovia made the process very easy for me to transfer and enroll," adds Yahaira. She worked closely with Sherri Benedict and Taylor Kubber, in Cazenovia's Center for Adult and Continuing Education, who communicated regularly with Yahaira and provided much helpful guidance. "They both made sure I was all set to start my first semester; I appreciate their patience!" shares Yahaira.

Cazenovia was also a great fit for Yahaira's schedule. Like many adults enrolled in college part-time, Yahaira works full-time and it can be challenging to balance school and work. "Cazenovia's flexible schedule allows me to plan my classes around my full-time work schedule," says Yahaira. "I am able to organize my time and stay on top of my schoolwork, so l don't fall behind."

"My experience at Cazenovia has been great in the classroom as well; the professors are very helpful and professional," she adds.

Throughout her educational journey, Yahaira has had many mentors who inspired her, though one person stands out, and that is Lisa Tobin, a Cazenovia College human services instructor at the Hudson Valley Community College campus. "Lisa always reminds me that I can achieve anything I put my mind to," says Yahaira. "I love learning from her. She encourages her students to speak up in class, and learn from each other," adds Yahaira.

Knowledge and Experience
Yahaira finds that her coursework and internships complement each other remarkably, providing a well-rounded experience that allows her to hone her professional skills and, at the same time, build a solid foundation of knowledge of the human services field.

One course in particular that made an impression was Professionalism in a Diverse Society, during which Yahaira learned how one's values and beliefs can shape a person's perspective. "It prepared me for my future working with different cultures," explains Yahaira.

In addition to the coursework, another important part of Yahaira's human services program is gaining real world experience. Yahaira has participated in two internships, one in a nursing home, and the other in a shelter for women and children.

At the nursing home, Yahaira worked with social workers and had the opportunity to improve her leadership and communication skills. Her internship at the shelter made a big impact as well, and she left the experience more compassionate and humble. "During the internship, I saw the struggles women go through and it reminded me to never take anything for granted. It motivated me to work hard to help young women," says Yahaira.

Yahaira graduates in May, 2018 and her goal is to find a job where she can expand her knowledge and experience in the field of human services so that she may one day manage a facility that helps those in need. "What sparked my interest in the field of human services was how versatile the degree is and that it allows me to do what I enjoy, which is helping people," explains Yahaira.

With the knowledge she is gaining in the classroom, and experience she is acquiring through her internships, Yahaira feels she will be prepared to succeed after graduation.

Stay the Course
Looking back on her experience—the ups and downs she faced to get to where she is today—Yahaira encourages future students to set their sights on where they want to be, and then go for it! Yahaira offers the advice she gives herself. "Don't let anyone discourage you from achieving your goals."
Photos taken by Vincent Giordano for HVCC.