Kimberly Alvarez, 21, remembers a happy childhood in Ecuador before her father went to the United States to forge a better future for his family. While Kimberly’s high school friends embraced new life experiences, she stayed home nights to care for her 7-year-old brother while her mother worked. She still excelled in her studies and began learning English, anticipating joining her father in Stratford, Conn. During her junior year, the long-awaited call came: Their papers were ready, and the family was reunited. Leaving grandparents and friends behind was difficult, and Kimberly was concerned about her English fluency. “I realized that what determines whether or not I’m prepared is the effort I put into succeeding.” Online language lessons and practicing her English enabled her to enroll full-time at Gateway in 2017. She has already earned an associate degree in Computer Science and is now majoring in Business. She plans to transfer to Quinnipiac University, major in Computer Information Systems, and one day teach computer science.
“What determines whether or not I’m prepared is how much effort I put into succeeding.“Kimberly Alvarez
“I set goals every day and push myself to academic success,” Kimberly says. She’s an officer of Gateway’s chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society for community colleges. In fact, she received a $1,000 Oberndorf Lifeline to Completion Scholarship from the PTK Foundation, as well as KeyBank scholarships via the GCC Foundation for the past three years. All was going well until June 2019, when she and her boyfriend suffered accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. “I was in a coma for five days,” Kimberly recalls. She awoke to discover her boyfriend had died. It’s been difficult dealing with her grief and the aftereffects of carbon monoxide, including confusion, headaches and dizziness. Kimberly, however, focuses on long-term goals. “My past experiences taught me I can achieve everything if I stay focused.”
Sadly, her father was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer. “It’s hard, but my parents taught us ‘family is union.’ That’s how we’re facing this – together.”