Caterina smiles wearing her graduation cap

Goal: Graduate from College, Find an Internship, and Start a Career

Self-described “animal lover” Caterina Dubois, a 2023 Holyoke Community College graduate, said she needed much more than a passion for helping animals to achieve her education goals and earn her Veterinary Assistant Certificate. Having autism spectrum disorder coupled with other mental health disorders presented Caterina with problems in planning, organization, and comprehension of complex information, especially the science homework assignments related to her field of study. “High school was difficult,” recalls Caterina. “I was misunderstood and called a rebellious kid who didn’t care about learning. I did not have confidence or hope that college could be a positive experience for me. That all changed when I started the College Navigator Program and worked with Rachael at Easterseals. Suddenly someone really listened to me, wanted to learn about my struggles and help me succeed.”

Caterina is candid talking about her life and future aspirations. She acknowledges that college classes were hard. “Those days when I felt completely overwhelmed, Rachael was always there for me with encouraging words and practical steps that I could take to reduce my stress and better manage my coursework,” comments Caterina. “I would often repeat mantras to myself saying ‘I can do this’, ‘I am going to reach my goal’.” When Caterina heard classmates talking about internships and what they were learning firsthand at various veterinary hospitals she would feel envious believing that achievement was beyond her ability. Rachael helped Caterina to think differently and coached her on how to prepare and interview for this opportunity. Caterina went on to land an internship at Manchester Veterinary Clinic in Connecticut and credits College Navigator for her “full college experience.” Caterina says, “This was huge for me. I didn’t think an internship was possible.”

Caterina applauds the College Navigator program for her hard-won success and for instilling the confidence to pursue her dreams. For Caterina, this means landing a job as a vet technician where she can use her new skills and knowledge, as well as moving into her own apartment. ESMA College Navigator Rachael P. echoes Caterina’s sentiments saying, “It was extremely rewarding to see Caterina find success and a supportive environment at Holyoke Community College. Both her confidence and ability to receive and utilize constructive feedback strengthened throughout the year. Upon graduating from the Veterinary Assistant program, Caterina had a more hopeful outlook on the reality of achieving future goals.” Equipped with her degree, stress-busting mantras, and newfound confidence, Caterina is sure to help many furry friends thrive while living her best life!

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