BA, Criminal Justice, MA Applied Sociology, William Paterson University
“I feel empowered that I have the opportunity to attend college when past generations in my family did not have that same opportunity.”
Teresa Formica ’17, MA ’20 wanted more in life than taking over the family business and managing it “forever.” She decided instead to go to cosmetology school immediately following her high school graduation and spent the next 11 years working in a hair salon. There, too, though, Formica realized she still wanted more.
While working at the salon, she enrolled at William Paterson, and earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, magna cum laude, and then a master’s degree in applied sociology. She was the first in her family to go to college, and once she got there, she felt compelled to keep going. Formica is currently pursuing a second master’s degree, in social work, at another institution.
Formica credits former WP sociology professor Sheetal Ranjan for helping her—a first-generation student entering university life after a full-time career—find her purpose and stay on course to achieve her full potential. “She inspired me to keep following my passion for assisting domestic violence victims,” Formica says. “She saw my passion and was the one who assisted me in finding an internship at Center for Hope & Safety, which led to my employment there. She is the reason I am where I am today.”
Formica says her experience as a first-generation college student influenced her journey to professional success because it gave her strength. It made her feel empowered.
“I feel empowered that I have the opportunity to attend college when past generations in my family did not have that same opportunity,” she explains.
Her advice to other first-generation students: “Never let anyone tell you how far you can go; you decide that. Keep pushing for what you want in life.”
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Wayne, New Jersey 07470