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.

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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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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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
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Gazin-Schwartz

Regina Edmonds

Professor of Psychology and Gender Studies at Assumption College

When I was in high school they were trying to track me into, you know, all the lower tracks and track me to –what do you call that—vocational training ‘cause I really didn’t—I always got really, really, really high grades but that was just ‘cause I worked so hard. I didn’t want to go to college. I thought I had enough of this [laughter] aggravation and enough of this kind of, not feeling particularly confident. But my parents said that wasn’t an option, that I was going to college whether I liked it or not, so that was probably a very good decision. So I went to college. I graduated in the top five and with Phi, Phi Beta Kappa so I guess I wasn’t as dumb as everybody thought [laughter] and then I went to the University of Pittsburgh and got my PhD. I would say that my challenges are also something I really in many ways value because I think that when you sort of struggle to understand something you can really explain it better to other people and I feel like I’m really good at that, you know, that I’m a good teacher, that I have a tremendous amount of respect for other individuals who struggle because I did. And I really do think it’s about hard work in large measure [laughs] and, and really, someone who will support you, people who believe in you, and my family believed in me even though, they thought I was kind of stupid [laughs]. And no one, no one ever thought that I would be the one in the family who wound up with a PhD but somehow I did.

Regina Margaret Edmonds was born in 1946 in Bayonne, New Jersey. Jeana was one of three children to the late Richard and Rose McBride Edmonds. As a child, Jeana and her family moved regularly due to her father’s job. In the fifth grade, she moved from Bayonne New, Jersey to Glens Falls, New York and she stayed there until the ninth grade. Her family then moved to Long Island where she graduated as valedictorian of her high school class. Her family moved to a new part of Long Island while she received her undergraduate education from Elmira College.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 10/28/2012
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Lisa Connelly Cook

Associate Professor of History and Political Science at Quinsigamond Community College

Well, it was when I was in school, actually I was at Clark [University] and I was taking a class on women in the law, and we were reading a book by Eleanor Flexner called A Century of Struggle and I read this section about Worcester and the 1850 Convention and was surprised I had never heard of that before. And it had just occurred to me that—at that time it was like 1992—that 2000 would be the 150th year anniversary and it was only a few years away and wouldn’t it be cool to do something about it! And that was sort of the beginning—thought of it, but I really didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know anything about the women’s movement from that time, or Worcester, or Abby Kelly, or any of these things. And so then I had seen that there was going to be a talk at Abby’s House about Abby Kelly Foster and I went to that talk and met Annette Rafferty who runs Abby’s House, and Elaine Lamoreaux who was also working with her in that, and Al Southwick who was a local historian. I proposed the idea to Annette Rafferty and she thought it was a good idea. Then I went to another event over there later and met Angela Dorenkamp and told her and she was really supportive. At that time I was working as a secretary and going to school and she was just so supportive. She just said, "Oh you can do that,” and I said, “Thanks, well, you know I’m a secretary,” and she said, “Oh you know I think a secretary can do anything.” [laughs] And she was really encouraging and she had actually written an article that was published in the newspaper about the Seneca Falls Convention and so I had read that and I was like, “Oh I have read your article and I would really like to do something like that about the 1850 convention” so that’s when she was like, “Oh do it! You can do that!” And then I ended up going over to the YWCA to look for a space to have a little meeting and from there met Linda Cavaioli who just was totally enthusiastic about it. And she had seen the article that I had published in the paper and from there we just started talking to people and just there was so much interest in it. Right away people were like, “I never heard of that! That sounds like a good idea! I want to do it.” And it was almost like so many people just wanted to jump on and get involved. Yeah, it was like a lot of energy.

Lisa Connelly Cook was born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1961 and attended Wachusett High School in Holden. Lisa lives in Leominster now with her husband Nash Mbugua, who is her second husband, in a condominium. Her two daughters currently live in Boston; she was pregnant with one of them during her senior year of college and had to go on maternity leave. Before moving to Leominster, Lisa lived in Quinsigamond Village near the College of the Holy Cross and in Millbury for 19 years from 1987 to 2006.

Interview Date: 
Wed, 10/17/2012
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Cook

Ivy Velez

Intensive Care Coordinator working with deaf

You know I’ll kind of explain more. The languages are—have—pretty much the same foundation and Puerto Rican has borrowed a lot from ASL. It’s interesting a lot of the graduates from Gallaudet end up going to Puerto Rico to teach and so they brought a lot of their language there and a lot of the ASL influenced that and then the missionaries would come to the churches and spread throughout the island and they would be using ASL . So they would use some ASL, some Puerto Rican sign language, and eventually they would just blend together.

Ivy Velez was born in Puerto Rico and currently lives in Marlborough Massachusetts. She is an Intensive Care Coordinator and works with deaf families with children as part of a bicultural, bilingual health care program. In this interview Ivy discusses what it was like growing up deaf in the United States after her move from Puerto Rico. She shares her educational experiences, the differences between Puerto Rican Sign Language [PRSL] and American Sign Language [ASL], and how she assisted her deaf parents with translation.

Interview Date: 
Tue, 03/01/2011
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Velez

Andrea Dottolo

College Professor

Oh it’s my, I mean it’s my identity, in many ways. I mean it’s who I…I think similarly to the idea that when I became immersed in women’s studies, it changed my life. I mean it changed how I saw my world, it changed how I saw myself, it changed how I saw relationships, it changed how…it just, it became a lens through which to understand everything. So, it became part of me, my identity as a feminist, my identity as a  -- I always knew that I wanted to, I mean at least for a long time I knew that I liked psychology, and I knew that I wanted to teach, but this women’s studies piece added so much more to it than I had imagined. I mean, I think my work means…I think it’s an incredible luxury that I get to do what I love, that I, that I have the privilege of being able to do this work that I have wanted for so long. But for me, my work is not just like a…it’s obviously not a…you don’t get into this to make money, right? So it’s not like I’ll ever be rich. But it’s the personal and the political and social commitment; what I study, what I research, and how I teach, for me. It’s like who I am.

Interviewer: 
Interview Date: 
Tue, 02/24/2009
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Dottolo

Lorna Farquharson

Born in Jamaica; Nursing Home Worker

And so the chair was here and I’m sitting in the chair, and something or other was on TV, but neither of us was interested, and he went and stood over there [points toward kitchen], and I heard when he said, “Grandy, you’re like a man.” I said, “What did you say,  my cookie?”  He said, “You’re like a man.” I said “Come my darling, come.” So I shift in the chair, and pull him in beside me and I said,  “Honey, the Father gave me only sons and now grandsons, so I have to be tough and strong.” And we both went silent. And the next day when I got up, that was one of the first thoughts I had. The child say you’re like a man, he didn’t say you look like a man, you’re like  a man. And I say “Glory hallelujah, I have been affirmed!” Because      I have wanted affirmation and here it is, my four year old grandson  gave it to me.

Lorna Farquharson was born in Jamaica in 1946. She spent her early childhood and early school years with her family in Jamaica. In this interview she explains how she came to the United States, the jobs she had when she first came to the country, and how she met her husband. She attended Quinsigamond Community College and Worcester State College where she took nursing and business courses. She also talks about having a Chiari malformation with syringomyelia that almost killed her when she was in her forties. Lorna raised two sons and now her greatest pleasure is her grandchildren.

Interviewer: 
Interview Date: 
Thu, 02/19/2009
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Farquharson

Barbara Groves

Teacher, Principal, College Counselor

I love being in education. I always was able to get along well with kids. Most of my career was spent with high school aged kids, some with middle school. I taught seventh grade for a while. But even in most of my administration, I was a college counselor for eleven years so I was working with seniors in high school, younger ones too, but primarily seniors. And I loved having the opportunity to help kids focus on where they were gonna go, what they were gonna do, and working with their families.  When I was a kid my father always said that each generation should leave the world a better place then they found it and I guess I thought if I could help young people do that, then you know…that was a good thing.

Barbara Groves was born in Springfield, MA. Her father was a salesman and deacon, and her mother was a pianist at the local church. She has one sister; she’s married and has two daughters, one son, and one child deceased. In this interview Barbara discusses her life story including her moving to nine different locations throughout her life. She discusses her teaching and counseling career and how they have helped her find meaning in her life. Indeed, in this interview, Barbara gives insight to a number of ways of finding significant meaning in life.

Interview Date: 
Mon, 11/15/2010
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Groves

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