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Beating the Odds

July 12, 2016

Amarfi ColladoBy Michael Banach

Not many incoming freshmen in the city can boast that their achievements have already been lauded in the New York Daily News and on television. 

But for St. Joseph’s College’s Amarfi Collado, 18, defying odds and overcoming challenges have been a part of her American story since she moved four years ago with her family from the Dominican Republic.

“I arrived in America four years ago speaking very little English,” said Collado, who was temporarily homeless last year, but overcame the hardship to become valedictorian at Pan American International High School in June. “The teachers at Pan American not only taught me English, but they gave me so much more than that — they gave me the confidence to believe in myself.”

Collado’s love of dance also played a key role in boosting her confidence as she adapted to her new home and school.

“At Pan American, I took a dance class, and it was a fantastic experience that helped me to open up,” she said. “From this, I learned that it’s OK if things don’t work out at first and that if you stick with something, what you can accomplish will surprise you.”

When her family was temporarily left homeless, Amarfi continued to thrive at school, with the help of the Pan American High School community. Her tale of hard work and persistence was recently told in a New York Daily News article and on NY1, as part of their “Exceptional Graduates” series.

When it came time to consider her education after Pan American, Amarfi knew that she wanted to attend a smaller college.

“I am the type of student that prefers a smaller, more intimate class, where I’m actively involved and not just a number,” she said. “When I came to St. Joseph’s, I saw how everyone socialized with each other, and I felt safe here.”

SJC Brooklyn’s Academic Center for English Language Studies (ACES), an academic support program designed especially for students whose first language is not English, was another strong draw.

“The ACES program will not just help me and my family economically; it will provide me with a chance to develop my social and academic skills,” Amarfi said. “I feel as if I will have a little family to support me through my college years.”

“Amarfi embodies the mission of the ACES program in that her intellectual drive and curiosity, as well as her diverse interests and talents, have helped her transcend the difficult challenges she has gone through,” said Mik Larson, director of the ACES Center. “We are so excited that she will be studying with us at St. Joseph's this fall."

Her ultimate goal at St. Joseph’s is to be in a position to earn a graduate degree and pursue a career in law.

“Following my time at SJC, I am confident that I will have the education to succeed in the legal profession and that SJC will help me make the connections I need to successfully find a job with all of the competition out there,” she said.