Born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Anne Jean '23 has overcome a great deal to earn her nursing degree. When she was born three months early, her mother was told that there was no hope for her survival. Her family moved to the United States when Jean was three years old for better opportunities, and she assimilated into her new life in Boston. She was determined to attend college and become a nurse.
Thanks to her tenacity and the support of her professors and the College Now program, Jean is not only graduating from UMass Dartmouth with a bachelor of science degree in nursing and a minor in business administration, she was named her ceremony's Commencement Speaker.
Jean has worked 20-30 hours/week at St. Luke's Hospital and as a private home health aide since her freshman year and has made the Dean's or Chancellor's List every semester. She hopes to become a labor and maternity nurse and to someday open a clinic for women and their newborns in her native country of Haiti.
UMass Dartmouth experience
Why UMass Dartmouth?
When a College Now counselor visited Jean's Boston high school and explained that students could join the program and graduate from UMass Dartmouth in five years instead of four, she was immediately interested. She visited the campus with her high school mentor and was impressed with the College of Nursing & Health Sciences.
"My parents and I have never traveled outside of Boston to visit different cities in MA. I had never heard of the town of Dartmouth prior to visiting the school. It was much quieter than Boston," Jean said. "The College of Nursing & Health Sciences has such incredible reviews and a high NCLEX pass rate. Admissions sold UMassD so well I couldn't see myself going anywhere else."
Hundreds of students who once ruled out college are now UMass Dartmouth graduates, thanks to College Now/START. Through academic counseling, instruction, and individualized attention, the program helps students with admission to the university and supports them through their academic careers.
In her first year, Jean maintained a B average and met the requirements for admission to the College of Nursing & Health Sciences. "Freshman year was my hardest year. I struggled," Jean said. "Dr. Christine Piva (chemistry and biochemistry) accommodated my educational needs and was phenomenal. I met with her every day after every class. She was so willing and open to working with me. I did fine in my other classes and started the nursing major my sophomore year."
Why major in nursing with a business administration minor?
"I've known I wanted to be a nurse since I was a kid. I was born premature and the doctors told my mother there was no hope. My mother gives credit to the nurses who were caring for both me and her. My grandfather was a diabetic and I was fascinated watching him self-administer his insulin. Sometimes he would let me 'administer' his shots. I always played with medical toys and went to a Harvard Medical School summer science camp. In my junior year of high school, I went on a mission trip to Honduras and worked in a hospital setting.
"I always wanted to have a business minor. The business minor helps me understand the administrative side of things and it's helped me with public speaking. We did a lot of presentations. If you want to ask people for funds for your company, you have to be able to speak publicly."
What is your reaction to being named the Commencement Speaker for your graduation ceremony?
"Sometimes I consider myself shy around new people. Appling to be a Commencement Speaker was literally me wanting to get out of my comfort zone and represent my class. On the day that the application was due, I remember being at my friend's house trying to make my submission video perfect. When I got an email congratulating me on being chosen, I felt so grateful and honored. Most importantly, I'm going to be able to make my parents even more proud by seeing their firstborn child on that stage representing her class. That child had to go through so many obstacles in life to get to this moment."
College Now credited for Jean's success
"I love College Now. They have been there for me to this day. I can always go there. They have helped with book vouchers and provided me with a tutor when I needed one. If I didn't go through College Now, I wouldn't be as successful as I am today.
"I am not a morning person. They taught me to be a morning person. I never asked for help, but they taught me how to talk to my professors and ask for help. They gave me the tools I need to be successful."
Jean credits Assistant Director of College NOW/START Linda Keith and Assistant Teaching Professor of Chemistry Piva. "Linda Keith spent time helping me find scholarships when my scholarships were ending. They were a shoulder to cry on when I failed an exam. These instructors would go above and beyond to ensure I understood the topic even if it meant working outside their office hours. I got so much one-on-one interaction. You don't find that everywhere. I am so grateful I came to UMass Dartmouth."
Keith speaks proudly of Jean and all she has accomplished. "Congratulations to Anne Jean! She is a shining star! Since day one in College Now, Anne believed in herself, put in the hard work, utilized campus resources, and always kept going—even through the pandemic. She was a first-year speaker at our College Now Share the Dream celebration, and now look at her, living her dream by speaking at Commencement. We could not be prouder of Anne and all she has accomplished. Her future is bright!"
Jean found a welcoming community at UMassD
What did you enjoy most about UMass Dartmouth?
"What's different about UMassD is the welcoming community and staff. In the library, people walk by and see what I'm studying and say, ‘You're working really hard. Good luck on your exam.'
"Freshmen and sophomores now ask me for advice. It's very welcoming here, something I didn't expect."
Do you have any special memories or experiences that were especially meaningful?
"Every semester of nursing is memorable. It takes so much to get there, and every semester, I say, ‘I made it.' It is most satisfying and rewarding.
"I am a first-generation college student, the first in my family to get a degree. When my dad came to the United States, he was a housekeeper. He couldn't take care of me if he went to college, so he went to work every day at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Charlestown. I am so grateful and thankful.
"He always worked two jobs to be sure I got my basic needs. He tells people at work, ‘My daughter is going to be a nurse.' Now I am going to have the opportunity to help him. That is what's most memorable to me."
What is your favorite place on campus?
"The library. I live there."
Do you have any advice for future nursing students?
"Never think you're alone. Once I opened up and met people, I found 20 people just like me. Try to make friends in your classes. Ask your professors for help. You have to put in the work to get the help. Ask for help at the beginning of the semester. Don't wait until the end."
Can you describe UMass Dartmouth in one word?
"Dedication. Every staff member that I had close interaction with was dedicated to making sure I succeeded."
Future plans include providing better maternal care for women and infants in Haiti
"I'm very interested in being a labor and delivery nurse. After graduation, I will probably work on a med/surg unit and then get a master's degree to focus on labor and delivery.
"I've always wanted to give back. I have a passion for caring for mothers and newborn children during such a vulnerable time in their lives.
"My goal is to open my own women's and children's clinic in Haiti. They have such high mortality rates for women and children. In Haiti, you have to pay to give birth or you can't leave the hospital. You need a good job to afford health insurance, which the vast majority does not have."
Do you feel UMass Dartmouth prepared you for your future?
"My educational programs have prepared me. I feel like I am prepared for the real world. I feel confident in graduating and starting my career."