Adult Degree Program

Success Stories

Jose Vargas
Class of 2019, B.A. in Spanish

Jose graduated in 2019 with a B.A. in Spanish. Beginning Fall 2020, he will pursue a Master’s in Special Education for Adolescents at Lehman College. After successfully earning his Bachelor’s, he sat down with us to talk about his college journey, motivation, and plans for the future.

ADP: What motivated you to apply for Lehman’s Adult Degree Program?
Jose: I work for the [Department of Education] as a paraprofessional [where I learned about the] program called Leap to Teacher. I chose Lehman College because I felt this school would provide a lot of support.

ADP: In what ways has the college experience helped you or changed you?
Jose: Personally, it is completing something that was incomplete...when you are able to close that cycle that was opened so long ago, you feel such a relief. Like you are complete...It is also another stepping stone in your journey. In fact, I just received the confirmation that I was admitted to [Lehman’s] graduate program. This fall, I will start working toward a [Special Education Adolescent M.S.Ed]. I love what I do and I just want to continue doing it. I needed to [earn my Bachelor’s] to [move on to] my Master’s and get certified as a special education teacher. The Adult Degree Program helped me reach that goal.

ADP: Who or what aspect of Lehman has inspired you or helped make your journey a success?
Jose: The entire Spanish department was wonderful. And also, Professor Pam [Hinden, Director of Adult Degree Program]. Professor, Director, everything Pam! She was there, making sure we accomplished our goal and, you know, it paid off.

ADP: What advice would you give to prospective students or students just starting out classes?
Jose: I would just say find something that motivates you...because when you find something that you love...that’s the best energy you need to move you forward. Loving what you do, making sure that what you’re going to do is going to benefit people. That’s the most important thing. We are seeing it now, during this time, the only thing that matters is the people you have around you.

ADP: What is the biggest challenge you faced as an adult learner?
Jose: Time management! How are you going to get there? How are you going to do it? The day doesn’t seem to have enough hours for you to do everything you have to do. There are people waiting for you!

ADP: How did you address this challenge?
Jose: There’s always personal motivation. [For me] it was important for my kids, my mother, and my whole family. I am the first one in my family to have a college degree. That responsibility was on me...I did it for my mom. She always wanted to go to school to be a teacher in the Dominican Republic, but she couldn’t. I knew how she struggled and how important education was for her. She always did what she could to make sure we went to school. So I had to do that for her. I had to do it for myself. I want to be a teacher and fulfill my goals. I also wanted to send a message to my kids. By completing college, I want them to know they should do at least that, and more.

ADP: What motivates and inspires you?
Jose: I have a 22-year-old. One personal [reason] I was rushing to graduate is that he was going to graduate—also from Lehman! I said, “Listen, buddy, we are walking together!” And we did. And I brought my mother and we were there...three generations. My mother was able to witness that powerful message that she always pushed for us.

ADP: Did you take the Prior Learning class? Tell me about this class and the process.
Jose: I did take this class and I will say it is going to look like a lot and you [may feel like you] cannot do it. This is how it’s going to look at the beginning. But then there is Pam. And she is going to say, “Trust the process.” And if you take that advice—trust the process—it will start to make sense as you go, and in the end, you will have the results you are looking for.

ADP: What achievement or contribution are you most proud of?
Jose: Definitely earning my degree. Also writing. Writing has always been one of my weaknesses. I learned a lot during the Prior Learning class. Especially writing about yourself. That’s hard. I gained a lot of writing skills in that particular course.

ADP: What do you think other people should know about ADP and Lehman?
Jose: Knowing you can benefit from all the work you’ve done in your life, that helps you move faster in your journey to your college degree. It’s important for adult learners to know that, and I’m not sure enough people know about it. I hope that more people take advantage of this program [because I believe it] can really benefit them.

ADP: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Jose: [Speaking about my experience] is the best thing I can do. Whenever my experience as an ADP student can help other adults [considering] whether or not to go back to school, if I can be that little piece that is going to make the difference in the decision making, I’m more than happy to help.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.