Carmen Rosa has always been very creative, and she had an interest in the arts as long as she can remember. Carmen’s ability to pursue this passion earlier on in life proved difficult due to the many adversities she had to face throughout the years.

Carmen lives in close proximity to the Middletown campus, making it a very easy commute. She decided to attend Middlesex because she had received positive feedback from former students and that the college offered a graphic design program.

She feels very fortunate for the very positive experiences she had with all of her instructors. Not only have they shown Carmen that they appreciate her work, but they also demonstrated they believe in her potential to succeed. Their compassion motivated her to work harder and instilled a higher level of self-confidence.

Carmen is as strong as they come. As she shared her personal challenges with us in her own words:

“As I look back at what life has dealt me through the years, I stand firm in my belief ‘that, which doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ Through 15 years of marriage, I was the victim of both physical and emotional abuse. I was stripped of my self-esteem and felt like a coward for not taking a stand. Although it is hard to say which was worse—I do believe the mental and emotional abuse did the most damage. Throughout those painful years, my dream of earning a college degree was just that—a dream. I chose never to stop dreaming—I knew I would make my dream become a reality one day!

“The youngest of three, I was born and raised in New York City. My parents—both born in Puerto Rico, chose New York as their home. They were very humble and hard-working. We never had any luxuries, but the love they gave us meant more than all the luxuries they wished they could provide. They were not able to get far with their schooling and as a result, they placed much emphasis on the importance of a good education. With my parents’ limited ability to speak the English language, we pretty much had to fend for ourselves when it came to homework and studying.

“At the age of 19, I dropped out of high school and was married. How I would live to regret what I did, and how very foolish I was then. As time went on, things started to change—the abuse began. In the midst of the pain and confusion, I started to focus on my dream again. How I longed to obtain my college degree! I knew I had to do something, yet I wouldn’t. I felt an overwhelming sense of cowardice.

“At 21 years of age, I gave birth to my first child—a boy! In that moment, I felt both joy and sadness as I didn’t know what our future held. What did I have to offer my child? Surely, we could not rely on his father. I knew then that the time had come for me to take a stand. As my yearning to go back to school intensified, so did the abuse. I felt myself sinking into a depression. I wasn’t myself anymore.

“At 31 years of age, I gave birth to my second son. It was then that I finally made the decision to change my life. I finally broke free of the abuse! I moved to Florida with my boys in an attempt to create a better life for us. I had developed thick skin as a result of my experiences, and although I knew it would not be easy, I was determined to make it on my own with my two boys.

“At 40 years of age, I became a college student. At last—my dream was to become a reality! I faced every obstacle imaginable, but giving up was not an option for me. The year 2000 was to be a milestone in my life—my college graduation. I remember feeling extremely honored when asked to be speaker of my graduating class. In the week preceding my big day, as I sat preparing my speech, I received a call which would once again shift my life in another direction. My father was diagnosed with incurable cancer. As fate would have it, my mother also took a turn for the worse. It was at that moment, that I knew I would move back to New York to care for my parents. My graduation was very bittersweet for me. One of the happiest days of my life, and my parents couldn’t be there to share that moment with me. After three agonizing and extremely emotionally draining years, I lost both parents less than nine months apart. I felt as if a part of me died with them. What a void I felt, and still do to this day! The whole ordeal finally took a toll on me, both physically and emotionally.

“In 2003, I returned to Florida to begin my healing process. It took me one year to finally find employment. In 2004, I took on the position of senior executive assistant to the Vice President of Student Affairs at Broward Community College. Eight months into my employment at the college, on June 23, 2005, while on my way to work, the unthinkable happened. I became the victim of a reckless driver. It happened so fast; I literality did not know what hit me. Fortunately, I have no memory of the impact, only the traumatic aftermath. I suffered multiple injuries requiring one month of hospitalization, painful surgery and months of rehabilitation. I was being put through the test again, but I refused to feel sorry for myself! The injuries that I sustained kept me out of work for a year and a half. The challenges were overwhelming but I had persevered before, and I would do it again!

“There have been many moments in my life in which the future seemed to hold no promise for me. When things seemed to be going well, there was always the uncertainty that it would not last. In my heart I feel that my parents were watching over me the fateful day of the accident, and surely it was not my time yet. I felt I had been given a fresh start in life—with that in mind I chose to make the best of what I had been given!

“In 2007, at age 50, I enrolled as a transfer student at Florida Atlantic University and found myself back in the classroom in the spring of 2010. I successfully completed the term but sadly had to place my studies on hold again due to my financial circumstances. In May of 2010, I lost my job due to company-wide layoffs, and in addition, with increasing accident-related health issues, I was forced to apply for permanent social security disability and relocated to Connecticut to be closer to my sons and grandchildren.

“Now at age 63, I am a student at Middlesex Community College as a Fine Arts major and am now closer to my dream of becoming a graphic designer. If any good is to come out of all the obstacles which I have faced, I must remain optimistic in my continued pursuit of my dreams! My goal is to be a successful graphic designer and work from home—I truly believe I have a lot to contribute to this field. In achieving this goal, I hope to prove to my sons and my grandchildren, that when you have the desire, determination and perseverance to overcome any obstacle—dreams can and do become a reality! My experiences have taught me that you are never too old to learn, and that a person is as limited to learning as he allows himself to be. I have dared to dream, and although I continue to face obstacles, I will bravely tackle them as they come. I have learned to cross my bridges as I get to them—words I live by!” —Carmen Rosa

Despite all the obstacles Carmen faced, she is very proud of what she has been able to achieve so far. She maintained a 4.0 GPA and invited to join Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society.

After she graduates with an associates degree in Fine Arts, she plans to work from home as a freelance graphic designer. When she is not attending school, she loves spending time with her sons and grandsons. They bring her great joy and are her No. 1 priority. At home her computer is her outlet. Carmen loves creating designs digitally and expressing herself through her creative talents.

As an older returning student, Carmen is more focused than ever to follow her passion and, in the process, she has gained self-confidence and feels better about herself. The classes which Carmen has completed will surely enhance Carmen’s skills and set her on the path to success in her chosen field.