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Community college a gateway to opportunity

June 13, 2014
By AMY RADIK , The Leader Herald

Julia Caro grew up in Brooklyn and transitioned into Amsterdam High School when she was 14 years old.

She decided to enroll at Fulton-Montgomery Community College because it was accessible and didn't feel intimidating. She appreciated the small campus and the sense of belonging to something larger than herself.

"I earned an associate's degree in liberal arts with a concentration in human services," she says. "FM served as a guiding light for my academic career."

Prior to coming to FM, Julia worked with Centro Civico Inc. and continued to grow within the agency. She served the community for 17 years in a variety of roles, from peer educator to director of community development.

"It was my work at Centro Civico that increased my awareness of the importance of an education. Hence, I became a student myself," she says.

Julia says her journey with FM as a first-generation college student was enlightening.

"There were various faculty members that served as strong bridges in my educational experience. I must say that I really couldn't get enough of Mr. Gyldenvand's 'genuine' outlook at life and Dr. Guiffre's 'serene' nature."

Today, Julia is employed by the New York State Senate as the director of district operations within the office of Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, 46th district.

"Management, along with community and public relations, have always been my strong suit," states Julia. "In terms of career goals, I strive to someday become a business owner. However, the nature of business and role it will play within society is still unfolding."

Julia, a mother of three, lives in Amsterdam. All of her children participated in the early admissions program at FM.

"Both of my girls acquired an associate's degree in criminal justice. One is graduating with a master's in science and a concentration in forensic mental health and the other with a bachelor's degree in legal studies from the Sage Colleges of Albany this May. My son plans on attending FM in the fall," says Julia. "Now that they are all grown up and continuing with their education, I can revisit my education as I'm looking to pursue a bachelor's degree in business."

While at FM, Julia was a member of the Human Services Club. In the community, she has served on many boards and supported the missions of various human service organizations. She is also a licensed esthetician, which she says is something she uses in a selfish manner, but nonetheless, it allows her to escape into a different world.

Asked about her opinion on community colleges and their importance, Julia had this to say: "Many people regard the term 'community college' as irrelevant and small. I am convinced of the contrary. We rely on community colleges, specifically FM, to be our gateway, our conduit, our stepping stone, and our bridge to higher education, the workforce, and economic development - all integral pieces of the fabric we put together to make our society.

How can anyone think of that as small or irrelevant? FM serves our needs, FM builds our lives and FM expands our horizons. That is why FM is important."

Amy Radik is coordinator of public relations and marketing.



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