December 2018 graduates

Finding Their Voices

The Alverno alum network recently welcomed 125 new members at the December 2018 undergraduate commencement ceremony. Discover how our graduates not only earned their degrees — they also found their voices.

Elizabeth’s Story

Biology major Elizabeth Gamillo ’18 was thrilled to win a competitive science-writing internship in Washington, D.C. But the reality of the situation didn’t sink in until she was staring at the phone she would use to cold-call sources to request an interview.

“There’s no turning back now!” she recalls thinking. She quickly overcame her nerves, though. During the 10-week summer internship, she produced nearly 20 articles, including one that she pitched on the first day of her internship. This story, of which she’s most proud, explores how Hurricane Maria affected the ability of graduate students in Puerto Rico to continue their research amid the damage and power outages left in the storm’s wake.

Not only was it gratifying for Elizabeth to see her idea become reality, but it allowed her to practice the persistence that is necessary to succeed in a journalism career.

“My editors really liked the idea and pushed me to be aggressive,” she says. “It helped me develop my confidence.”

The internship was the culmination of a journey that began before Elizabeth even arrived at Alverno. She attended the Girls’ Academy of Science and Mathematics, where area high-school girls come to the Alverno campus for weekly instruction and hands-on lab experience. Getting to know the campus, faculty and students helped ease Elizabeth’s transition to college, and she has returned the favor by assisting current Girls’ Academy students.

When Elizabeth receives her diploma, the aspiring science writer will be ready for what’s next.

“Alverno helped me build my speaking and communication skills,” she says.

Marina’s Story

Marina Thao ’18 came to Alverno with a career path in mind but no passion.

“I majored in nursing because that’s what my parents envisioned for me,” says Marina, the first in her family to go to college.

As she pursued her education, Marina began to learn about herself. At Alverno, she found a second home and a sense of community. She grew in confidence, and she discovered her passion. It wasn’t nursing.

“Business is my passion,” she says. So rather than stick with the nursing career her parents were encouraging, she decided to pursue a degree in Business and Management.

“I truly believe that when you’re passionate about something, you feel better and you do better,” she says.

Helping Marina navigate the transition were Alverno faculty and staff as well as her sisters and friends. She also relied upon the confidence she has steadily built up over the years, which she credits to the classroom experiences, internships and other opportunities she has taken advantage of during her time as a college student.

“Before I came to college, if you asked people about me, they would say that I was a quiet girl who stayed at the back of the class and didn’t speak,” she says. “Now, people would say that I have a very confident voice. People have told me that I can move crowds.”

Building this confidence is the first step Marina took toward finding her voice and realizing she is a leader.

“Alverno helped me learn how to express myself when my voice needs to be heard,” she says.

Ivette’s Story

When Ivette Velez ’18 arrived at Alverno at age 29, it was with a newfound sense of freedom.

Ivette was newly divorced and navigating life as a single mother of four children. She had always wanted to earn her bachelor’s degree, but it wasn’t possible before.

“Coming here created an awakening in me,” she says. “I learned so much about not just myself but the rest of the world.”

Ivette, a Business and Management major, says Alverno’s 8 Abilities gave her the tools to learn how to think and how to reach conclusions after thorough research and analysis.

“Alverno showed me how to think for myself and how to think critically,” she says. “I learned how to ask detailed questions, how to ask for facts and not make assumptions.”

Her awakening included the realization that she didn’t have to be quiet anymore. She could speak up for herself and for others, and she had the knowledge and skills to do so. To her, this is the definition of a strong woman.

“A strong woman is not afraid to say no,” she says. “A strong woman is not afraid to ask for what she wants. A strong woman has confidence to share what she knows and thinks.”

Ivette is proud that by the end of her Alverno education, she has become that strong woman.

“I’m not the same woman I was when I came here,” Ivette says. “I learned how to speak up.”

How did Alverno help you find your voice? Share your story with for a chance to be featured in a future article!

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