Category Archives: Student Spotlight
Most students can attest to a teacher who inspired them and helped to change their lives. Jamie Mattos, on the other hand, is a student who has permanently and positively affected Goodwin College.
Mattos, who received her associate degree in Nursing in December 2013, is the embodiment of the Goodwin College mission. A mother and grandmother who has endured more than her share of life’s challenges, she thrived as a student and continues to develop a voice and presence in the Goodwin community that resonates beyond the classroom.
“I just put one foot in front of the other and pray quite a bit,” Mattos says. “I’m so happy just to be here at Goodwin having new experiences.”
As she struggled to balance her family responsibilities with her student obligations, Mattos sensed the need for a creative outlet. She eventually found the perfect escape in a most unlikely interest: her passion for poetry. Her verse, heavily inspired by her life experiences, has helped her cope with the changes that she has made in her life and propelled her as a leading voice of the student body. She has been featured in poetry jams, published in Goodwin’s Beacon magazine, and soon plans to self-publish a book of her favorite pieces.
“I’m able to express some things that are on my mind,” Mattos says. “At times, it’s been a distraction and outlet from the intensity of nursing.”
Mattos was in a difficult situation when she arrived at Goodwin College in 2010. She was a single mother raising her eight-year-old daughter, Jiana, who had been diagnosed as schizophrenia and autistism. Plans to sell her house and move South were dashed with the decline in the housing market, and a series of harrowing car accidents had forced her onto disability and out of her career as a computer programmer.
“I needed a new plan, and it took a while to figure out what I was going to do,” she says.
Friends suggested that Mattos would make a good nurse. She visited the Goodwin College River Campus and met with academic advisor Glenn Black. He recalls how Mattos worried about her age, her ability to be a student again, and especially Jiana’s needs. After a “long talk,” Black says, she realized it was the right decision.
“I didn’t expect the school to be so warm and supportive, which was wonderful given my age,” Mattos says. “It was scary coming back to school. The whole environment had changed.”
By that time, Mattos was nearing 50 and her older daughter, Jessica, was expecting a little girl of her own. She was at a critical juncture, and she had to sell the idea of returning to school not just to herself, but to her growing family as well.
“It hasn’t been without struggles and tears,” Mattos says.
A Rising Presence
Despite her initial concerns, Mattos started at Goodwin and soon found an environment where she could thrive. A dedicated student, she found herself doing well in her classes, and inspired by her classmates, instructors, and a culture that embraced her.
“One of the things most striking for me was the strong female presence here,” Mattos says. “It helped to have so many strong, positive women surrounding me.”
Soon the challenge shifted from whether college was right for her to whether she could afford to continue. Though she received financial aid, Mattos and many other Goodwin students faced a crisis when the state legislature threatened cuts in the Connecticut Independent College Student (CICS) grants. As a nonprofit, private institution, Goodwin College relies on CICS funding to provide opportunities to students.
The cuts would have significantly impacted several colleges throughout the state. Mattos was inspired to speak out against such a measure and volunteered to appear in front of the Connecticut State Legislature’s Education Committee. In 2011, she found herself sitting before the committee, as well as television cameras and reporters, to plead the case against the cuts.
Mattos’ testimony was taken to heart. The Legislature moved to exempt colleges with small endowments, such as Goodwin, from the cuts.
Goodwin’s Poet in Residence
Mattos was later accepted into the Nursing program and began the rigorous course work. While concentrating on her labs, clinicals, and other technical courses, she discovered a more creative outlet through another voice that had been developing inside of her, that of writer and poet.
English professor Cynthia Hendricks was one of the first to realize Mattos’ talent. Hendricks encouraged Mattos to continue to write, not just for class assignments, but also for herself.
“I have seen such tremendous growth in her writing, from her initial submissions — personal, insular, and mystical — to opening up in her later work to a broader audience with a wide range of appealing strategies,” Hendricks said.
Inspired by some of her favorite writers and poets, such as Maya Angelou, Rudyard Kipling, and Edgar Allen Poe, she developed a style that ranged from playful to serious. The poems draw on her life experience, age, race, and gender.
Indeed, Mattos has become one of Goodwin’s star student talents. She is president of the Poetry Club and frequently shares her work during poetry slams and recitals
“She practiced hard until she found her voice, and the audience found her,” Hendricks said. “She was one of the first poetry slam winners, and as time went on, Jamie continued to prove herself as an emerging force that could not be ignored.”
Mattos’ poems touch upon many themes — faith, femininity, cultural pride, shame, humor, and love. In Grace, she explores religion as a shield against the sometimes harsh realities of the world.
Between a rock and a hard place
There is a space,
Deep within and far from view,
That is where you will find the essence of you.
That part of you no one can touch,
That shields your spirit from the crush.
She does not shy from controversy, using verse to frame her opinions on divisive issues and events, such as the death of Trayvon Martin, which is the title of the poem from which the following verse is taken:
Another star in the sky
To weep for our ignorance
The bodies of our children litter our streets
Our soil is soaked with their blood
We cry out in anger, and load another gun
It wasn’t long before the College published some of Mattos’ work. Her confidence grew, and Mattos found herself performing her original verse before audiences of students and administrators.
“It’s nice to have other people appreciate what I write,” Mattos said. “It was kind of rewarding to get that response.”
One Journey Ends, Another Begins
As the end of her nursing education approached, Mattos found life becoming much more manageable. She and Jiana moved into one of the College’s properties in East Hartford, and her daughter found classroom success at a local elementary school. Mattos’ nursing clinical experience brought her into the oncology ward at St. Francis Hospital in Hartford, where she connected well with her patients.
Although she was working with patients who were suffering from cancer, Mattos wasn’t intimidated or overwhelmed. She says that her age and own experiences contributed to her ability to forge good relationships at the hospital and find commonality with those she served.
“Being older and having more life experience can be an asset,” says Mattos. “Your perspective is different than someone in their 20s or 30s. You can connect with people in different ways.”
On December 19, 2013, Mattos and her cohort were pinned as graduates of the associate degree in Nursing program. Her family, who now understand that her sacrifices and return to school were worthwhile, cheered her on as Program Director Jan Costello placed Mattos’ pin on her nursing scrubs.
But Mattos isn’t done with Goodwin College yet. She continues her education here, now in the RN-to-BSN baccalaureate degree program.
“You can’t get rid of me that easily,” says Mattos, with a wry grin.
Justin Greene and his wife, Casey Sholes-Greene, have been married for a little over a year and are expected to graduate from Goodwin College in May of 2014. Justin will be graduating with a degree in Medical Assisting and Casey with a certificate in Phlebotomy.
Before they became familiar with Goodwin, Justin was working part-time at Home Depot, and Casey found work as a certified nursing assistant. After seeing commercials that highlighted the College’s career-focused degree programs, Justin decided to make a positive change by furthering his education and signing up for classes at Goodwin. Inspired by her husband’s example, Casey enrolled at Goodwin in search of a promising career as well.
“My husband said it was a great school. He highly recommended it to me,” Casey recalled.
The couple was up for the challenge, and they have been each other’s source of support and encouragement along the way. “It’s nice to live with somebody who will help motivate you,” Justin noted.
Many students come to Goodwin with a specific career in mind, but all have the common desire of significantly changing their lives for the better. “I didn’t just want a job; I wanted a meaningful career. I wanted to do something more,” Justin said.
Initially, Justin entered the Medical Billing and Coding program, but eventually was attracted to a career that would allow him greater interaction with patients, so he enrolled in Medical Assisting. “Medical Assisting at Goodwin is preparing me for a career where I can continuously challenge myself,” Justin stated.
Casey also feels positive about the knowledge she will be taking with her after graduation. “Goodwin taught me about responsibility. I didn’t know much about the health care field before coming to Goodwin, but now I feel confident in my abilities,” Casey said.
Goodwin’s atmosphere and supportive environment have been large factors in Justin and Casey’s success. “The teachers promote hands-on learning and have practical knowledge in the health care field. They truly want you to succeed,” Justin said. Of the changes that he and Casey are making, he continued, “I could not be more proud of us. We’ve both made the same great decision: to get our degrees together at Goodwin.”
The health care field is something Justin and Casey are both very passionate about, with plans to come back to Goodwin to obtain degrees in Nursing. “We want to further our careers and continue learning,” Casey stated.
Trading in the rice and flowers for caps and gowns, Justin and Casey will be walking down yet another aisle together with high hopes and expectations for their future.
By: Hannah Stacy
Goodwin College graduate Tiffany Williams has encountered more than her share of life-altering events and emerged on the other side with a promising college degree, a fulfilling career, and the determination to succeed at all costs. Having recently earned her associate’s degree in Human Services, Williams, the first in her family to attend college, plans to continue her education in the near future.
“Before Goodwin, I was working dead-end jobs. I wasn’t doing anything productive,” she states bluntly.
Following the tragic murder of her long-term boyfriend in 2008, Williams decided to make some necessary changes in order to heal — and to grow. “His death made me realize I needed to do something positive with my life. I wanted to turn my life around, so I enrolled at Goodwin in January of 2009.”
Originally, Williams hoped to become a nurse, but ultimately changed her course of study. Realizing that she wanted to help people in a different way, she decided to enroll in Goodwin’s Human Services program.
The field of Human Services offers a wide variety of opportunities for those with a strong desire to help others by enhancing their quality of life and addressing issues in human growth and development. Just as Williams was able to promote a positive change in her own life after such devastation, she wanted to assist others in doing the same. “Things in my life were starting to align and make sense,” Williams recalled.
Her studies at Goodwin provided a sort of anchor in the coming months, as the birth of her daughter in 2011 was followed by serious health issues for Williams’ mother six months later. During this time, she sought strength through prayer, and her unwavering faith kept her afloat. “It definitely took a toll on me. I wanted to give up so many times, but I didn’t. And I kept my grades up in spite of everything,” Williams said.
The day after she graduated, Williams was offered a full-time position working with women recently released from incarceration. She had three other offers for full-time employment from organizations seeking someone with her expertise, education, and skill set. “I can’t tell you the joy I experienced that all these positions were offered to me. I felt really proud,” Williams stated.
Reaping the benefits of a college degree has made her even more determined. “Hard work pays off. I’ve learned so much from Goodwin that I carry with me now. I’m going to achieve my goals no matter what,” Williams said.
Williams hopes to continue advocating for her clients, sharing her story and personal experiences with them, and making a difference. “If I can touch at least one life, one heart, one soul, it’s all worth it to me.”
By: Hannah Stacy