Education

We are interested in understanding how women and girls in Worcester have experienced learning, both through formal institutions and through life experiences and relationships. This theme includes women and girls’ experiences within, and access to, schools and higher education, as well as other avenues to knowledge and skills.

Caroline Lavalleee

Retired postal worker; mother of four

I think if the woman is qualified I think she should run for office because if you want the job well done you hire a woman.

Caroline Lavallee was born in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1936. She attended Oxford High School. She met her husband Norman Lavallee when she was twenty-two years old at a Polish Dance Hall. They married a year later and together they had four children. Caroline Lavallee worked multiple jobs; her most memorable was her position as a clerk in a Worcester Post Office where she retired in 1999. In this interview, Caroline discusses the struggles and joys of her life in the Worcester area.

Interview Date: 
Fri, 11/08/2013
Interview Focus: 
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Lavalleee

Mimoza Koshi

Bank branch manager; security officer;Albanian immmigrant

I could give advice to them that when the opportunity is there, they need to grab it and go for it. This is the country that the women have all the rights of this country that they can exercise all their – [long pause] all the freedom they exercise and everything so they'll be able to continue education, take care of family, and be someone in life.  I am proud of what I've done so far and always as I told you I meet a lot of people and a lot from different countries. And in Worcester we see a lot of newcomers who are immigrants from different countries and I’m always try to talk to those women, how they can become someone in this country. They have this opportunity. That's how I see it.

Mimoza Koshi was born in Tepelena, Albania in March of 1969. She came to America in June of 1999 along with her husband and two sons through a program called DV Visa. It is a program where a person is selected to come to the United States to work. After her arrival in Worcester, it took her a long time to adjust to the different culture and way of living. She spoke no English, but eventually learned through night school. Eventually, she enrolled in Assumption College and received her bachelor's degree for Business Administration in 2010. Today, she continues to work two jobs.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/05/2013
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Koshi

Patricia Jones

Owner, P.L. Jones & Associates P.C.

I recall that I had mentioned the teaching mentor that I had who always said if you go to school and work hard you can do anything. And I would say going to school means continuous education. It doesn’t need to be a structured school, but it’s important that people are always learning. And I do think that it’s important for individuals in future generations to know that they need to contribute to their own destiny. It’s not something – it’s not an entitlement – and that they have to work for themselves to accomplish something. So that would be my advice – what was passed on to me. I would say continue your education, not necessarily that it needs to be in a formal setting and work hard by contributing to your own destiny.

Patricia Jones was born in Worcester in a neighborhood near Chandler Street.  She dropped out of school at age 16 to marry and have children.  When she divorced, she realized that her calling was to public accounting.  She attended Quinsigamond Community College and discovered she liked accounting. She went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Suffolk University and later her graduate degree from Bentley University. Patricia Jones began working as a partner and eventually became the owner of  P.L.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 10/17/2013
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Jones

Patricia Verderese

Teacher;Religious Education Director; Member of the First Class of Women at Assumption College

Well, when I first arrived here [in Worcester] in 1969…it was like a bombed out World War II city…And so that was my first impression…But over the years, I have come to realize that Worcester is a very great place…We’re members at the art museum and [involved in ] Music Worcester…The restaurants here—you couldn’t find any better in Boston…Every time we have a new person come to the city, or to visit us, we take them on a tour of Worcester.

Patricia Lucille Field Verderese was born in 1951 in Arlington, Massachusetts. She is connected to Worcester because she attended Assumption College in the late ‘60s and continues to reside in the area until present day. The major theme Patti reflects upon in this interview deals with her identity and what events helped shape it. Patti is a very hardworking and dedicated woman as seen by her participation in Assumption College’s first class of women. Patti discusses some challenges she faced with her Irish background, being shy, and her political and religious beliefs.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 03/26/2013
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Verderese

Marianne Felice

Chair of Pediatrics, UMass Medical School

And I think of the department that I ran as a garden...I think of all the faculty that I’ve recruited as a flower. I could have had all roses…real flashy, but they have thorns, roses do. So you can have all tulips, but I think of the faculty in the department as a different kind of flower. Some need lots of sunshine, some need lots of water, some are going to be okay with benign neglect. They don’t even need you.

Dr. Marianne Elizabeth Felice was born in Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1943 and works at UMass Medical School in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. She and her husband, John Giles, moved to Shrewsbury in 1998 when Marianne was offered the chair of pediatrics. Marianne has devoted her time to her job, advocacy efforts, and her husband. Networks of women have played an important role in her life and experiences, and she continues to value these relationships today. In this interview, Marianne reflects upon the struggles and joys of her life and experiences within the medical field.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 04/04/2013
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Felice

Laurie D'Amico

Director of Literacy Volunteers of Greater Worcester; member of the first class of women at Assumption College

I remember in my first English class at Assumption, I had a teacher that was very liberal, and probably a non-conformist, and he wore sandals to class. I thought that was outrageous, and he smoked cigarettes all through the class. One of the first things he said, and I remember this so clearly, and I was so shocked, he said, ‘In order to grow up, you have to figuratively kill your parents,’ and I was…a freshman. I had never been in any situation quite like that…

As a contribution to the Worcester Women’s Oral History Project, we interviewed Laurie D’Amico who was born in 1955 in Rhode Island. Major aspects of Laurie’s identity were religious views, careers, college experiences, social changes, and major historical events. Laurie addresses religion during her college years where she attended church regularly. Currently she views herself as a believer, rather than a churchgoer.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/13/2013
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D'Amico

Aimee Brunelle

Emergency Psychiatric Clinician; member of the first class of women at Assumption College

The fun challenges of being the first women in class ... where there had only been men -- it was fun to go in and earn an A from professors who never -- who rarely gave A’s, who doubted that the women could do it.

Aimee L. Jacques Brunelle was born in Fitchburg, Massachusetts in 1951. She is a believer in love and is a hard working woman. Aimee married her husband, Roger Brunelle, in the chapel at Assumption College and is happily married with two daughters and no regrets. Aimee Brunelle is a part of three communities the French-Canadian, academic, and Catholic. Aimee attended Assumption College, furthering her French-Canadian culture, and was part of the first women’s class. She was the main class of student that Assumption College had aimed for when it was founded.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 03/13/2013
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Brunelle

Melinda Boone

Superintendent of Worcester Public Schools

When I came [to Worcester], I initiated a State of the Schools annual message to the community, where I talk about what our focus is, what we’re successful in accomplishing and where our greatest needs are going forward, and we know that we have to prepare all of our students for today and tomorrow’s jobs—today’s jobs—tomorrow’s jobs. And so what does the workforce look like? We know also that a higher performing school system is certainly an enhancement to economic development within the city. So we want to be able to showcase our best and brightest schools and students as part of the economic development, but my overarching goal is to ensure that every child is college and career ready, and I say both because when you look at entrance requirement for jobs, and the entrance requirements for colleges, they are very much the same now. So gone are the days of being able to separate the two…....But additionally, you know, I respect the parent’s right to choose, whether, you know, public, private, parochial, or charter. I want to position the Worcester Public Schools at a place where they will want to choose us…

Dr. Melinda J. Boone is an African American woman born in 1959, from Norfolk, Virginia who became Worcester's Superintendent of Schools in 2009. Much of her identity originates from her perseverance through struggles over the course of her life. These struggles include racial prejudice throughout her education, as well as her being a woman in a job many of her colleagues assumed was male-oriented. Though she certainly had difficulties and troubling times with her family, including the loss of her husband, both her family and faith provide sources of inspiration and comfort for Melinda.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 02/28/2013
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Boone

Beatriz Patino

Director, Cross-Cultural Center, Assumption College

. Like, I think I’ve done the best kind of with what I was given and what I had and what was put before me and I’ve always tried to kind of challenge myself and, you know, try new things. Like going to college was one thing, but then even doing the Peace Corps -- like when I wanted to do the Peace Corps my family kind of flipped out a little bit because--this is a direct quote from my family. This is in no way my--this is my family’s reaction to me going into the Peace Corps: “That’s something only rich white kids do because they don’t want to work.” I was like “Okay,” you know? But, I think my biggest regret in college was not studying abroad, so I wanted a way to do that and I felt like what better time or what--when could I actually have an opportunity to do some kind of work and service has always been a really important part of, you know, my life. I did a lot of service work while I was in college. Also I worked with, you know, I worked at some of the daycares like at – working with children and at different facilities and schools. And then I also did a lot of HIV/AIDS prevention work, so I worked with families affected and infected with HIV and AIDS and--so like I always did a lot of service while I was in college and even before that in high school. But, I think it was a difficult thing to do because my family did not want me to go and there was a lot of pressure and there still is, being the only person in my family who’s gone to college. So, you know, like I think financially my family expected me to, you know, finish college and get a job and help them, you know? That was kind of like the expectation and I think it kinda still is. But, so I think they thought I was being very selfish. Like, I mean, even if I’m thinking like, “People enter the Peace Corps that sounds like the most unselfish thing” but to my family they just couldn’t understand why I wanted to leave. They were like “People need help here; why can’t you just do it here?” and, you know, I think it’s just--they just didn’t understand, you know? But, I was happy I did it and I think they can see it now, like later on, but I think it was difficult and nobody’s ever left the family like that, like for so long. I mean, I didn’t come home at all those two and half years.

Beatriz Patino was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1978. Her mother is from Puerto Rico and her father is from Mexico City, Mexico. She is currently the director of the Cross-Cultural Center at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts, after having served as a resident director at the college for a number of years. Beatriz discusses how she always went to schools where the majority of her classmates where female and ethnically similar to her. It was a bit of a culture shock for her when she came to college where many more students were white.

Interview Date: 
Thu, 11/29/2012
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Patino

Amy Gazin-Schwartz

Professor of Anthropology at Assumption College

So, the most difficult transition, it took me maybe most of my adult life was to—even though I tell you this whole story about how I grew up in a family which truly encouraged me to be myself and had no sort of set idea of what as a woman I was allowed to do, and I went to college in the same type of environment—it was to learn to trust myself. And to not always question whether I was good enough at what I was doing. It took most of my life to figure that out. So that was the biggest learning curve I had to go through. A transition to being a mother was not actually that easy. I mean it’s hard to go from not having a kid to having a kid who is there 24 hours a day and depends on you. So that was a transition but it was okay. The transition to being married was not big once we had decided that we were just done. We knew we were going to be married so…not to say we always got along, but the commitment was such that it didn’t matter if we were fighting. It was, that was it we knew we were going to be together for the long haul.

Amy Gazin-Schwartz was born in Troy, New York in 1952. After her father graduated from college and got a job in Massachusetts, she moved to Natick, Massachusetts and later Duxbury, Massachusetts where she enjoyed both elementary and high school, constantly reading and exploring the outdoors. Amy discusses the importance of developing oneself freely and becoming whoever we are destined to be. The development of self is something she still encourages young women to recognize in growing up.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 11/13/2012
Interview Focus: 
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Gazin-Schwartz

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