"I will not give up, lose hope, or stop fighting because of the perceptions of others." —Coyna Peralta, TTC Alumni Speaker

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen,

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I am Coyna Peralta, a graduate student at Rhode Island College School of Social Work. As nervous as I am standing here today, I am also proud to be sharing my experiences with you all. First of all, I would like to congratulate all of the students here for graduating from the TTC program.

I was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the United States when I was nine-years-old. One of the hardest things I had to do was learn how to speak English and adapt to the American culture. There were times when things were difficult, and obstacles just kept coming my way. However, I didn’t give up and kept moving forward to the best of my abilities. Growing up with a single mother, three siblings, and living in government housing was challenging. Not seeing my mom as much as possible was emotionally exhausting, but I knew she had to work to support us. Recognizing the difficulties that my mom was experiencing, I realized that I did not want to experience her life struggles and challenges; I wanted something better for myself. Unfortunately, my life took me on a different path. At the age of 15, I got pregnant and dropped out of high school. During this time, my priorities were obtaining a job to support my child.

By the age of 21, I had three beautiful boys and no high school diploma. Determined to change my life and provide a better future for my children, I enrolled in the National External Diploma Program "NEDP," here at RIRAL. Thanks to this program, I was able to obtain a real high school diploma within a few months. Upon completing the NEDP program in 2011, I enrolled in the Transition to College program “TTC.”  TTC served as a tool that helped me gain education, knowledge, discipline, and helped me discover who I am and who I am meant to be. I would never have thought that a group of strangers would become my second family. TTC is a program that genuinely believes in students and invests its time and efforts to help students succeed. TTC contributed significantly to my college success. Marie, Mrs. G, and others believed in me when many didn't and, most importantly, they all helped me believe in myself. And for this, I will always be grateful.

 Upon accomplishing TTC, I enrolled in the Community College of Rhode Island “CCRI.”  I can proudly say that in 2015, after three years of being a student and hard work, I graduated from CCRI with an Associate’s Degree in Human Services. I continued my educational journey by proudly enrolling at the University of Rhode Island “URI,” on the Providence Campus. In 2017, I graduated from URI with honors, something that I never thought possible. Graduating from URI was a pleasant experience because it showed me that I could accomplish anything I wanted.

Overall, throughout my life, I have strived to achieve my goals with hard work and determination. During my years at CCRI and URI, I sacrificed a lot as my children are my priority, but my education was also important to me and still is. It was challenging to balance both, but I made it. I pushed myself to get where I am today for my children and a better future. I hope my success will serve as a great testimony and reference point for others in need and give them hope that they also can achieve their dreams. I understand that things are not always going to be given to someone. Each person must do his or her part and work hard to make things happen. Success means a lot more when you earn what you work so hard to get; those things that come free usually don’t last very long and have no weight, so you take them for granted. However, I feel that my obstacles have made me a stronger person and have given me a greater passion for what I am trying to achieve.

Nevertheless, I am very thankful for RIRAL (NEDP, and TTC) programs, as well as CCRI and URI. Because of these three institutions, I have grown tremendously -- emotionally, educationally, and personally. These institutions have helped me develop empathy and sensitivity towards others, essential skills that social workers must have. I can honestly say with high certainty that my personal problems gave me the determination to become a social worker and that my own experiences will be used to help others facing similar difficulties. Throughout my life, I have found that social work requires honesty, a great abundance of patience, perseverance, the ability to problem-solve and, lastly, determination -- qualities that I currently possess and have gained throughout my educational experiences.

I am currently enrolled as a part-time student in the Social Work Master’s Program at Rhode Island College “RIC.”  I have been at RIC for a year now, and I am very thankful for being part of this college. I know that completing this program is not going to be an easy task; however, I am up for the challenge. As confident as I want to be about this program, unfortunately, it has made me question my capabilities and has caused me to question my intelligence. Throughout my experiences at RIC, I have felt targeted because English is my second language, I have felt unintelligent because my writing is not MSW level, and I have felt undeserving of this program and less competent. I have never felt so out of place in my life, but I did not come all this way to fail. I will work ten times harder than I have done before. I will seek assistance whenever necessary, and I will not give up, lose hope, or stop fighting because of the perceptions of others. I will show RIC that I am more than capable of accomplishing this program, because a social worker is who I am meant to be.

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Social Work is something I have always been interested in – primarily, working with children and families. Helping people to overcome obstacles and difficulties and make the most of themselves is a gratifying career. I have raised my children single-handedly and feel that I can relate to families who are having similar difficulties and challenges. My future practice and efforts to help others will reflect my positive attitude and determination to improve my quality of life. The fact that I can help people in different aspects of life is something amazing and rewarding. Changing people’s lives is all I want, and this program will help me achieve just that. In addition, this program will also help me to grow both personally and professionally. The stronger I become with the help of this program the better outcome I will have in changing individual lives. By completing my Master's Degree, I can bring change and create paths to a better future, not only for myself but also for others. It takes a special person, with a huge heart, to have a career in Social Work. I am committed to achieving my goal of joining the dedicated community of social workers.

I am standing here today, not to tell you that your educational journey will be easy, because it will not be easy. You will fall multiple times; you will lose hope and question yourself; you will be disappointed in many things relating to self or education. But, remember that success is about accomplishing goals that you never imagined you could achieve. As a graduate student, my advice to you all is never to give up or lose hope. Look where I am standing today. Let my story, my experiences, and my struggles serve as evidence that nothing is impossible in life. People cannot see your heart, it is up to you to show them who you indeed are. I am a successful, first-generation, graduate student, and I will continue to encourage others to pursue higher education — not just to prove something to those individuals that doubted them, but more importantly, to accomplish their own life goals. And remember, if I did it, so can you.