Gladys Valentin has always been a woman with goals. One of her greatest goals was achieved after she realized that as a single mom, she needed to complete her education in order to give her two children the kind of life she wanted for them.
In January of 2001, Gladys was hired as the secretary for the EOF Department at Montclair State University. After securing the position and fulfilling the required one year of employment, she was eligible for tuition reimbursement. Gladys returned to the classroom as an EOF transfer student to finish her Bachelor of Arts degree. While holding down a full-time job, she enrolled as a full-time student.
Gladys took the first step toward reaching her goal at a community college. She said “I already have an Associate’s Degree in Office Systems Technology from Essex County College.” Gladys found support through the Educational Opportunity Fund Program (EOF), a program that exists to serve underrepresented populations in the successful transition to college by providing them with academic support, personal counseling, career enrichment, financial assistance, and leadership development.
“I was scared at the beginning,” she said. She recalled her first semester, “when finishing a degree it looked like a huge, daunting task, but after I started seeing success, I actually saw myself finishing and overcame all obstacles.” The EOF staff offered her support and words of encouragement, especially her EOF counselor, Maria DeLourdes Torres. “EOF is family,” she said.
As a Spanish major, Gladys took Spanish history, literature and Spanish grammar courses. She found the grammar and literature courses the most challenging. “I met a lot of new friends,” she said. “Everyone was very helpful.” She remembers her professors, Dr. Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino, Dr. Linda G. Levine, and Dr. Diana Guemarez-Cruz who were very supportive through her years as a Montclair State student. Gladys was also able to foster a number of collaborations as she continued to work on her BA.
By 2005, Gladys proudly received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish and was awarded the Excelsior Award from the EOF Program for outstanding services and dedication. In addition, she was promoted to the position of Program Assistant to Dr. Allyson Straker-Banks, the Assistant Vice President for Student Academic Services Department providing administrative support to the office and assisting with office management until the year 2011.
Currently, Gladys works as the Program Assistant to Dr. Daniel Jean, Executive Director of EOF and Academic Development. Gladys proudly provides administrative support to this department. Serving as Program Assistant to Dr. Jean allows Gladys to experience working with the EOF Department/Summer Program, providing incoming EOF Scholars and freshmen with an opportunity to become acclimated to Montclair State University, completing three to six credits of course work and gives students an introduction to overall college life. For Gladys, guiding students through this process is a rewarding way to give back to the program that did so much for her. She stated “That is what I really like, helping students.” Gladys also shares her story with students who struggle juggling families and careers, “You are not alone, and you think you can’t do it as a single mom, but I can relate to all those women out there, set your goal and make it happen.”
Finishing her degree was liberating and Gladys advises other students to give it their all to succeed. “Have faith in yourself,” she continued. “You can succeed and create a better life for yourself and your family!”