Alene Harrison’s wish was really a simple one: to bring a smile to people’s faces. Today, that is how she spends most of her day—and for that, she gives credit to Middlesex Community College.
Working at the state’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction and then at River Valley Services in Middletown, where she was living, gave her the chance to directly help people in need. She wanted to make this her lifelong work, but that meant building her academic credentials. Fortunately, Middlesex Community College was right next door.
Alene enrolled in Middlesex’s highly regarded human services program. Once she started taking classes, she appreciated the smaller size of the college, making it easier to connect with her classmates and professors. Alene was drawn to the ways Judith Felton, former coordinator of the program, would push students to work harder and get out of their comfort zones to challenge themselves. The connection deepened when Alene learned that Judith had, ironically, worked with and admired Alene’s grandmother early in her own career.
Alene’s passion for social work does indeed come from her grandmother (also named Alene). She often watched how her grandmother made a difference in other people’s lives.
Now, Alene was motivated to show these two influential women that she would succeed in their shared profession. And as an older student, Alene felt she was more tuned in to how college was important to a great career. She dedicated herself to learning and working, scheduling her classes and meetings around her full-time job. Individualized feedback from professors helped her improve as a student—a great relief to Alene after realizing age was not a factor in her success.
“It is never too late to go back to school, no matter what age,” she said with a smile.
In 2012, Alene received her hard-earned associate in human services from Middlesex. She then graduated magna cum laude from the University of Bridgeport with a B.S. in human services.
“My grandmother often said since each person is different—a good social worker needs to work with each person differently,” Alene said. “After working in this field for many years, I now know what she means, and I keep her words close to my heart. I feel Middlesex follows that same philosophy—working with each person differently and treating each person as unique individuals.”