Ivanna Figol graduated from Gateway in May, having earned an associate degree in Business Administration (Accounting Option), two certificates (Management and Accounting), and a 4.0 GPA. Those accomplishments would be remarkable for anyone, but for a Ukrainian immigrant speaking no English when she arrived in this country in 2012, they are extraordinary.
Ivanna’s name was chosen in a lottery for U.S. Permanent Resident Cards (aka “green cards”). She was able to bring along her husband Volodymyr, a machine operator, and their 2-year-old daughter Andriana. She and Andriana later returned briefly to Ukraine so Ivanna could complete her bachelor’s degree in Economics.
When she came back to the United States, Ivanna attended ESL (English as a Second Language) classes at the East Haven Adult Education Center and worked nights as a healthcare aide. In 2015, she began taking courses through Gateway’s ESL program, before entering the college’s academic program part-time. “English was challenging,” she explains, “but I knew I had to speak it well to become an accountant.” She found camaraderie among her fellow students and remarkable support from the college’s ESL instructors. At Gateway, Ivanna became an officer of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community colleges. She also worked as a teller at a North Haven bank and a waitress at a Branford café. Those jobs, plus financial aid in the form of Pell Grants, was a huge help to the family, especially after her husband’s on-the-job hand injury led to surgeries and a partial disability.
Ivanna has been accepted into the Master of Science in Accounting program at Albertus Magnus College (AMC). She currently is taking two more preparatory courses at AMC, which the college will combine with her Gateway credits and Ukrainian university courses to complete her bachelor’s degree. The master’s program also will qualify her as a Certified Public Accountant, and her career goal is to become a Financial Specialist. “Gateway was my springboard to success,” she says. “It boosted my confidence and allowed me to go forward.”