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New program helps first-generation students find career paths

For first-generation student Jamilet Amoguea, the River Hawk Scholars Academy (RHSA) helped her get through her first two years at UMass Lowell.

Now that Amoguea is a junior, her focus has shifted from understanding college life to preparing for a future career.

“I know I wanted to attend UMass Lowell, and I know I want to do something with psychology, but I’m still a little lost on what I’ll do in the future,” Revere’s psychology major says, Massachusetts.

To help Amoguea and others like her find their way, RHSA launched a Pathways to Career pilot program. While the nationally recognized RHSA program is aimed at freshmen and sophomores, it expands to offer career and college readiness programs for juniors and seniors through with federal funding of $500,000.

“I was happy to see it was offered. It’s especially helpful for first-generation students because a lot of things are new to us,” Amoguea says of the one-year program. “I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on students to get it all mapped out in their first or second year. It will help me to try to understand where I am coming from.

Photo by Ed Brennen

Computer science major Arthur Rosa is one of 26 juniors participating in RHSA’s new Pathways to Career program.

Managed by Assoc. Director of Career Services Serwa Addae-Adoo, the Pathways to Career program provides the first cohort of 26 juniors with a structured plan for the academic year. Students are required to participate in several activities and programs organized by the Career and Co-op Center, such as interview and resume workshops, networking nights, and the Dine & Dress event. Students are also required to attend the fall or spring career fair, as well as conduct career-related interviews with three individuals from the UML community.

“Each year, the needs of each college cohort are different,” says Addae-Adoo. “In freshman year, they understand the ins and outs of college, and now they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I need to get an internship and do something with my career.’ That’s why we’re here – to support them in various ways.

Addae-Adoo began developing the program last spring with RHSA director Matthew Hurwitz and Carol Towle ’22, academic council coordinator at the Manning School of Business. Towle earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from UML last spring, with her thesis on “intrusive counseling,” which involves proactive intervention with students.

A dark-haired young woman in a checkered shirt listens to someone speak in a conference
Photo by Ed Brennen

Junior Business Administration student Stella Cortese interviews other members of her Pathways to Career cohort.

Arthur Rosa, a computer science student from Everett, Mass., says he enrolled in the program to stay on track to find a career that will allow him to help people.

Being part of a cohort of first-generation students “helps me move forward with the support of my peers,” he says. “Seeing my peers from all walks of life fight for their careers, even if it’s difficult, inspires me to do the same.”

Yaritza Gil-Javier, a criminal justice major from Lawrence, Massachusetts, signed up as soon as she saw the email from RHSA.

“I struggled with what I wanted to do with my career,” says Gil-Javier, who explored options in forensics and law enforcement before discovering an interest in homeland security through his courses.

Two young women, one in a checkered shirt and the other in a blue sweatshirt, talk to each other while sitting at a table
Photo by Ed Brennen

Junior biology major Naisha Sterling, left, speaks with another member of the Pathways to Career cohort during their kick-off meeting.

“This program will definitely help me decide what I want to do with homeland security,” she says. “Hopefully I can network and build new relationships.”

Addae-Adoo says many first-generation students face barriers early in their careers, such as a lack of connections, which she hopes the program can address.

“We are very happy to have our first cohort,” she says. “We hope that the numbers will increase next year and that we can support even more students.”

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