Women’s Forum of New York Recognizes Humanchia Serieux ’20 For Her Determination as a Single Mom to Get a College Degree

Women’s Forum of New York Recognizes Humanchia Serieux ’20 For Her Determination as a Single Mom to Get a College Degree

Women’s Forum of New York Recognizes Humanchia Serieux ’20 For Her Determination as a Single Mom to Get a College Degree

Being a non-traditional college student can come with a lot of obstacles, from juggling parenting and homework, to getting re-accustomed to a classroom and campus setting. But, when it comes to obtaining their education, the five non-traditional John Jay students who recently won the 2019 Women’s Forum Education Fund Award, aren’t letting anything stand in their way. Rose-Marie Crystal, Jennifer Flores, Nancy Graham, Gabriela Pelaez-Benitez, and Humanchia Serieux, all exemplify the belief that when it comes to educational dreams, there is no “expiration date.” The Women’s Forum of New York created the award specifically to address the financial needs of women over 35, an underserved population, who are on the path towards completing their bachelor’s degrees. In this series, we spoke to some of the recipients to learn more about their journey to John Jay, their hopes for the future, and their message to other non-traditional students considering college. Our first student feature is Humanchia Serieux ’20, an Anthropology major with a Gender Studies minor. She’s a mother of two from Brooklyn, New York, and hopes to use her experience to create an easier path for future generations to attend college.

Tell us a little about yourself. 
I have a daughter and a son. My daughter is 22 and she actually received her associate degree at the same time that I did, but she was in Canada. My son is going to be 13 years old soon. Before coming to John Jay, I obtained an associate degree in Human Services from LaGuardia Community College.

You’re a recipient of the 2019 Women's Forum Education Fund Award. What does this grant mean to you?
Being a recipient of this award is prestigious because it’s not about one particular college, it’s a whole list of colleges. When I applied I didn’t think that I would be selected, but this award will help me pay off the balance of my college tuition. Paying for college was a problem for me before this award. After I graduated from LaGuardia, I still owed them tuition. I paid it off using my credit cards, but now I have to pay the cards back. With John Jay, I didn’t want to leave College owing anything or anybody, so I decided to pay it off as I go. This award came at the right time, and has been a huge help.

“It’s because of the Honors Program that I heard about this award, but my decision to apply had a lot to do with the possibility of paying off my college tuition.”—Humanchia Serieux

How did you hear about this award?
Litna McNickle, Administrative Director of John Jay’s Honors Program, was the one who told me about it. Being in the Honors Program, you get one-on-one advisement and access to a lot of information in regards to scholarships. This has made being in college a lot easier for me. It’s because of the Honors Program that I heard about this award, but my decision to apply had a lot to do with the possibility of paying off my college tuition.

This award is given to women 35 and older who are pursuing a college degree. What inspired you to go back to school and pursue a degree?
I always wanted to continue my education. At an early age, I made the decision to work instead of continuing my education. As a parent, I always thought about the example I was setting for my children, pushing them to go to college but not going myself. I didn’t want to continue living my life without that bachelor’s degree, so I decided to go back to college. When I was selecting a college, I saw that John Jay had an Anthropology major, and I knew that this was where I would be getting my degree.

“As a parent, I always thought about the example I was setting for my children, pushing them to go to college but not going myself. I didn’t want to continue living my life without that bachelor’s degree.” —Humanchia Serieux

What have your family and friends said about your decision to return to school and get this degree?
My son is busy being a teenager. My daughter is supportive and really proud. This journey of earning our associate degree at the same time, has made us closer because we were sharing the same experience. Whenever she didn’t understand something, she could call me and ask for help, and I could do the same. And, because I’m more mature and understand life a bit more, I was able to help her move forward. 

How do you balance schoolwork, motherhood, and a job?
Balancing all three—work, school, and motherhood—is a little bit tough. Currently, I attend college full-time and go to classes mainly in the morning. There are times when I have to take classes in the afternoon, but for the most part, they are during the morning. After class, I go to work, then after work I go home. When I’m in school I work part-time, because my classes usually end at 1:30 p.m. and I have to be at work at 3:00 p.m. 

Can you go through what a typical day looks like for you?
During the morning, I have to leave around 6:15 or 6:30 a.m. to be at school for my 8:00 a.m. class. I sometimes have two to three classes a day that end around 1:30 p.m. For the few classes that I have to take in the afternoon, I am able to speak to my employer, who is very understanding and allows me to work around my school schedule. Without these evening classes, on a typical day, after class I go to work from three to nine o'clock in the night, and from there head home to repeat the process again the next day. There are times that my son isn’t awake when I get home, so I have him call me when he leaves school and when he gets home. That way I can make sure that he does his homework before I get home. I also have to make sure that when he gets home, there is stuff for him to eat, especially for the days that he goes to sleep before I get there. On a typical day, I go to bed around midnight, maybe one in the morning, and my alarm goes off at maybe five in the morning. It’s a lot, but I know that it’s going to be worth it in the end, and I’m almost there. 

“Education is the basis for independence.”—Humanchia Serieux

Why is it important for women to get an education, regardless of their age?
Education is the basis for independence. I’ve always been a strong believer and encourager of women being independent. I’m a single parent. How can I show my children to be independent, if I’m not? You can’t depend on anybody to show you what you need to do. You have to teach yourself and you need to get the knowledge. 

What would you say to people who think that college is only for students in their teens and 20s?
I would say that it’s never too late to go back to college. I’m a firm believer that it is always wise to gain more knowledge. That’s what makes you a better person and helps you understand what’s going on in the world. If you keep yourself closed to different people and different cultures, then you won't be able to understand them, work with them, or help them in any way.

What advice would you give to others, who may think that going to college is out of their reach?
I would tell them to go for it. Don’t let anyone stop you from achieving what you want to achieve. I got a lot of blowback from some family members, but I told them that it wasn’t about them, it was about me. My sisters, have always supported me. But the ones, who said I couldn’t do it, they’re the ones that didn’t go to college themselves. 

“If you keep yourself closed to different people and different cultures, then you won't be able to understand them, work with them, or help them in any way.”—Humanchia Serieux

In an ideal world, where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to be somewhere working with diverse communities—maybe immigrant communities—helping them become more aware about what they want to achieve and how they can achieve it. It has been a difficult path for me to get to college. I wasn’t a high school student here; I went to high school in St. Lucia. I understand what it’s like to struggle as someone who is not a native here, and I want to use what I learned from my experience to make things easier for others.

Finish this sentence for me: Without John Jay...
I wouldn’t be as knowledgeable as I am about a wide array of diverse communities. John Jay’s community is made up of people from so many different backgrounds, who have varying experiences. But, everyone is kind and has a real interest in your success. It is because of this, that I have felt welcomed and able to succeed on the path towards my degree.