“My dad is from El Salvador and always dreamed of attending college. However, in order to support his younger siblings, he moved to the U.S. and began working instead,” says Angelica Villatoro, ’20, who will be the first on her father’s side to graduate from college. “He wants me to be the one to break the cycle.”
Aware of her father’s sacrifices, Villatoro has always felt a personal responsibility to succeed in her education. Upon receiving a scholarship from the College of Saint Elizabeth (CSE), she began studying biology in hopes of becoming either a physician assistant or a nurse. She believes her dedication to education may inspire her younger relatives to break the cycle of poverty as well.
“My cousins still live in El Salvador and they don’t have access to the opportunities that I have been given in the U.S.,” explains Villatoro. “I’m happy that they come to me for advice about attending college because knowledge is power.”
More than anything else, Villatoro believes that a high-quality education can change a person’s life. Unfortunately, access to this type of education, both in the U.S. and abroad, can be compromised by a multitude of factors. High crime rates and underfunded school systems present challenges for students like Villatoro when seeking a good education. As a result, these students are forced to overcome hurdles that may not be present in more affluent areas.
“In Jersey City, the crime rate is really high, some of the schools aren’t as good and I had to constantly be aware of my surroundings,” says Villatoro. “It’s such a relief to be in Morristown because the crime rates are so low. I can just go about my day without worrying about where I’m walking, who I’m associating with and what time I’m out.”
For Villatoro, CSE has been an escape from the hardships of living in the inner city. The safety of the surrounding area has enabled her to focus solely on her academics. As a Hispanic woman, Villatoro wants all women of color to be able to comfortably pursue an education. Eventually, she hopes to mentor young women and inspire them with her story.
“I want younger people to have somebody, who has been in similar circumstances, to look up to and model themselves after,” says Villatoro.
Mary Colleen Robinson has a communication degree with a concentration in journalism and is currently working as the PR/Social Media Specialist at the College of Saint Elizabeth