A Hard Road Traveled Leads to Success

Cynthia Laroche

Cynthia Laroche, Part II

by Joan Reissman

When you’ve been working with students for a long time, you meet many different personalities. Once in a while, a student stands out. Cynthia Laroche is one of those students.

I first met Cynthia in 2013 when she was a student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Cynthia had only been in America since 2011. When she came here, she spoke English, but it wasn’t her first language. Her father was already in America, but she had to wait a while until her mother could join the family in the United States.

Cynthia was a diligent student and adjusted well to a new education system. She studied during the spring semester of 2013 in JFYNetWorks’ College Readiness after-school sessions at CRLS. We had a blended learning class, so Cynthia studied online work tailored to her individual needs, but there was an instructor to help her when she didn’t understand a concept. Before the end of the year, Cynthia was on track for graduation and had been accepted at Bunker Hill Community College. She continued to study with JFYNet through the summer to strengthen her skills and place in higher level college courses. She knew that college would get more difficult the farther she went. “The JFYNet program really helped me understand what college courses would be like and to get ready for them,” she said.

Cynthia studied hard during the summer as she prepared for her first year at Bunker Hill. She said the JFY College Readiness really helped her with math “by providing the math help that I needed at the time and then during school for my classes. JFY improved my math skills and helped me understand math better because that was a major subject I needed to pass in school. “ Math was especially important because Cynthia wanted to have a career in science, and she knew she needed to build her math skills to succeed in that career path.

While Cynthia was attending Bunker Hill, she held a job and did volunteer work. She started out at UPS, got an internship at Cambridge City Hall, and became an Employment Resource Specialist. Cynthia did all of this while attending college. It wasn’t easy. She felt that she was always short of time, trying to work, do school assignments, and help the community. She says her biggest challenges were “dealing with time and not being able to focus just on school and having to work to pay for school and to provide.” But she succeeded. Cynthia received her associate’s degree in biology from Bunker Hill in 2017. She studied hard and gained lab experience that she could add to her resume.

Cynthia’s hard work and determination helped her build the foundation for her next goal: a bachelor’s degree. Because she had already developed academic and time management skills, she made a smooth transition to UMass Boston. She received her bachelor’s degree last year.

I asked her how she managed to juggle work, school, and community service. She said it wasn’t easy but she just kept sight of her long-term goals. “I knew that I wanted to finish with school, and thinking that I was so close helped me know that I could finish. It was just thinking and having that mindset that I was always closer than before.”

Then came the pandemic. That made things even more difficult, but Cynthia remained focused “by taking it one day at a time.” Although she sometimes had to attend remotely, she made the best of the situation.

As a new college graduate, she landed a job in her chosen field. In October she began a new position as a laboratory technician at Harvard working in a COVID lab. This is her first paid position in the science field. Working here will help her determine if laboratory work is the best future for her. Cynthia is passionate about helping people, so she might prefer a career in a hospital. We will see.

Cynthia has always given time generously to help others. Since high school, she has been an active participant in volunteer work for the Cambridge community. She has worked with senior centers and with the Many Helping Hands organization. But she wanted to do more, so she started her own organization, Help Kids in Haiti. The organization’s main goal is to provide money for school supplies. She started the organization from Gofundme and it grew from there. Since Cynthia is from Haiti, she knows how much help people there need and she has a special interest in helping children.

I always wanted to help. I love helping. It feels good and it is a nice thing to make someone’s life better, especially if you have been in their shoes or experienced things they are going through. Everyone keeps calling it my organization and I began to see that I was the person believing in it and bringing it to existence. I had never run a non-profit organization but I am willing to learn. I am seeking all the resources to guide me along the way and planning to raise more funds in the future. I have even received donations from other organizations.

I asked Cynthia about her long-term goals and where she sees herself ten years from now. She wants to continue building Help Kids in Haiti and pursuing her science career. It’s important for Cynthia to “create positive change if not one but many kids.” Since she loves people, it’s no surprise that she also sees a family in her future.

Cynthia is a remarkable person, but she is also humble. She says she achieved her goals with support. She names many close friends, family, and professionals who helped and encouraged her along the way. But she also gives herself credit for not giving up.

Cynthia has come a long way from the teenager I met in 2013. In my profession, I am usually there at the beginning of a student’s journey but I rarely get to see a young person grow and achieve her goals. Cynthia has achieved so much. I look forward to the next chapter of her future.

Joan Reissman is a veteran learning specialist with JFYNetWorks.

Cynthia Laroche, Part I: “Road Less Traveled Leads to College Success”, can be found here.

Other posts authored by Joan can be found here.

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