Every Right to Be Proud

By Carmen Rios-Nuñez

“Oh my God, it’s literally the best feeling ever,” said Ana Maria Rico, 31, a senior planning to graduate this January. “From all the stuff that I’ve done in my life, getting a higher education degree is probably the highlight of my life.”

Rico, who majored in film and media studies and minored in women’s studies, lives in in Long Island and said she transferred to Hunter from Nassau Community College because the campus is conveniently located for her and because of the affordable tuition. A student since January, 2015, she said she liked most of her professors and enjoyed the hands on work she did in her studio classes, adding that she had a better understanding of how the city works.

Wearing blue jeans, a white sweater, gray jacket, and black boots, during the interview that took place in a North Building media classroom, Rico said she worked as a bartender.

“I think Hunter excels at the programs it offers,” said Dayna Haffenden, 21, a senior, also graduating this January. “I know many of my CUNY friends are jealous of the fact that Hunter has such great nursing, journalism and dancing programs. There is so much variety in terms of what you want to study.”

Haffenden, who applied to Hunter as a transfer student because she had already taken 30 college credits in her high school, said she was considered a sophomore in college after graduating from high school in 2013. She said her experience at Hunter was pretty straight forward, noting that she didn’t join any clubs and just went to class and then home. Still, both students said that they experienced some hardships while attending the school.

“From the two years that I was there, I only had one professor bring up internships and she was the only one that actually sat down with us and actually, she’s helping me right now,” said Rico, who is finishing her last five classes and, as an internship, is conducting research for one of her professor’s documentary ­ the only internship she has had while in the school. “You need guidance. You don’t know what you’re doing, basically.” According to Rico, getting help she needed in her classes was one of the biggest problems she experienced as a student. Some professors don’t give their students direction, said Rico.

Haffenden said she also struggled with getting help during her internship search. She sought advice from a professor and the experience was almost discouraging. “She told me I needed to change everything on my resume and that is why I haven’t gotten an internship,” Haffenden said. “However, that was the same resume that helped me get the three internships I have now.”

“Hunter needs to find a way to talk to students and encourage them,” Haffenden said. But both students said that they were just happy to have made it through the long journey and were looking forward to the January commencement.

“I feel like I was pretty ignorant when it came to politics and I feel like that’s the one thing that I thank Hunter for, that’s the one thing that I’m taking away,” Rico said, regarding her political classes. “Now, I feel like if I vote in four years again, I’ll have a better idea of what’s happening or how to look for information.”

For Haffenden, commencement will be a relief. “It feels so good to be graduating. I tell everyone that I’m graduating when I speak to them, even strangers,” she said. “The late nights, tears, stress; it’s crazy how three years went by. I just feel so proud of myself and that’s something I don’t say often. But I have every right to be proud.”

Carmen Rios-Nuñez can be reached at Carmen.Rios66@myhunter.cuny.edu