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Tricia Breton: Transformative power of education

After a fifteen-year hiatus, Tricia Breton of New Bedford returned to UMass Dartmouth on a mission. Newly divorced, she knew earning a bachelor’s degree was “the way to a promising future” for herself and her two young children.

A double major in English and Women’s and Gender Studies, Tricia had to sacrifice in order to succeed.

“Life had knocked me down, and I wasn’t sure I could get back up. I was relearning how to hold my head high, but it was a slow process,” Tricia said. “The biggest sacrifice we made was time. I turned off my social calendar and devoted every spare moment to either my schoolwork or my kids.”

Transformative power of education

Her first class provided Tricia with her first lesson: “Intro to Rhetoric required a final presentation. I definitely couldn’t stand in front of a classroom and present my work. I wasn’t ready; I wasn’t confident. So I put a new item on my bucket list: find my confidence.”

Over the next few semesters, Tricia found that self-confidence.

“My English classes taught me that I had something unique to say. I just needed to know how to communicate effectively. I developed amazing skills to help me communicate my thoughts and ideas. I transformed from a quiet, scared woman to a woman who refuses to be silenced. To me, that’s the power of education.”

Internship developing an e-newsletter

Tricia’s transformation was recognized by College of Arts & Sciences Dean Jeannette Riley. She offered Tricia an internship: to develop a newsletter for the college which would highlight faculty and student achievements.

The initial weeks of the project were challenging, as Tricia’s first drafts came back “denied, rejected, and refused.”

“I pushed on. The chaos calmed, and the process started to run smoother. I connected with the Publications and Web Development departments. They learned to trust me, and I learned to trust them. Together, we’ve published five e-newsletters; there is one more to go before graduation.”

I transformed from a quiet, scared woman to a woman who refuses to be silenced. To me, that’s the power of education.”

Next steps: Graduate study and a non-profit organization

Tricia will pursue her master’s degree in UMass Dartmouth’s Professional Writing program this fall. The writing and communication skills she’ll develop will help her achieve her dream.

“My life experiences and my second major in Women’s and Gender Studies have ignited a passion to study the connection between women, welfare, and education. My research focuses on the role that education plays in the lives of low income, single mothers.”

“My long-term goal is to create an organization—Second Chance—that encourages and funds education for low-income, single mothers. I believe everyone deserves their second chance.”

Reflections and advice

“I got my second chance at UMass Dartmouth with top-notch professors,” Tricia said.

“They’ve devoted countless hours getting to know me, meeting with me, and working with me. I’ve always been ‘that student’ standing at the door, waiting for office hours to begin. But they never turned me away. Their job was to lead, and they’ve led me right to graduation. “

Tricia’s advice to future students echoes her own path to success: “Don’t run away from defeat. Don’t hide from failure. Embrace them. Because on your worst day, you'll find the best opportunities."  

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