Graduating Senior Overcomes Adversity, Makes Top of the Class

Lourdes Hawkins
Lourdes Hawkins
Before coming to Lehman, Lourdes Hawkins already had a lot of responsibilities, as she worked part-time to help her mother with her younger siblings. But when her mother passed away suddenly during her sophomore year, she faced her greatest challenge. Through her own determination and the support she received at Lehman, she was able to continue pursuing her dreams.

Lourdes came to Lehman through the SEEK program. The beauty of the campus and its proximity to her home were part of the attraction, but she also had a passion for speech pathology. "I've known about the field since I was young because I received speech therapy as a child," she explains. After beginning her studies, Lourdes discovered that her younger sister also had a speech impediment, she was happy to bring her to the Lehman speech clinic for an evaluation.

Even though she worked part-time, Lourdes excelled in her studies. She made the Dean's List, became more involved with campus activities, and volunteered to help SEEK freshmen with registration. But then the unthinkable happened. Lourdes was a sophomore when her mother passed away suddenly and unexpectedly.

"Her passing opened my eyes," says Lourdes. "My mother had always taught me to be independent, but having her there gave me some flexibility—I knew I had someone to depend on if I hit a bump in the road. Suddenly, there was no more time to play around; it was either get my act together or fail to succeed."

Lourdes's younger brother and sister moved in with an uncle on Long Island, while she scrambled to find an apartment in the Bronx. At 19, she worked long hours to pay her rent and educational expenses and pushed herself to get her driver's license to make it easier to visit her siblings. Thanks to the support of the SEEK program, she was able to get through this difficult period. "Without the guidance and support of my SEEK counselor, I probably wouldn't have been as successful as I have been in my college career," she says. "I received excellent academic support and was able to develop great networking relationships."

Lourdes has maintained excellent grades, received awards for her contributions to the SEEK program, and served as president of Lehman's Circle club for three years. She has been accepted into Lehman's graduate program in special education, but would also like to continue her studies in speech pathology. Ultimately, she hopes to become a speech pathologist. Lourdes also would like to work or volunteer in higher education, "possibly helping students to achieve their true potential and become leaders."