Q&A with Haitian Scholarship Winner Joanne Joseph
“The more education I have, the more I can help myself, my family, my friends, my town and my country.” The power of that statement helped propel 29-year-old Joanne Joseph to win a two-year scholarship from St. John’s University in New York, where she is majoring in Administrative Studies—a professional management program—and expecting to graduate in May 2014.
Joseph grew up in Ladumette, Anse-à-Veau, Haiti, “a small town in a remote area where even the basics are missing, let alone school or work, so there wasn’t much for me to do.” She earned a scholarship to a California community college, where she earned two associate’s degrees in agriculture sales & service and agriculture business. The Vincentian Family Haiti Initiative checked in with her to see how she is faring after her first semester.
Q: Describe your experience at St. John’s.
A: I am having a great time. St. John’s is way beyond what I expected. I was very frustrated because I missed orientation. I did not know exactly what I was going to do or how I would figure things out, but thank God I met some wonderful, helpful people on campus. The first day, I fell in love with Lucy Pesce (Executive Director for Mission). She is such a fantastic person. She gave me a personal tour which was excellent. We had fun discovering together all the departments that she did not know despite working at St. John’s for many years.
When I arrived at an office on campus, everyone was willing to help, and Lucy did not hesitate to introduce me to her colleagues and friends. I now know a lot of people, thanks to her. She assigned me a mentor whose name is Hadia Sheerazi, who became a friend. Hadia helped me with almost everything throughout the semester including finding the best bargains. I think that I have already met almost all the wonderful Vincentian priests on campus. I am now looking forward to my second semester, which hopefully will be as wonderful as the first.
Q: What was your reaction when you heard you earned the scholarship?
A: Honestly, it was a mixed feeling. I was extremely happy to hear about it since it was my dream, but I was a little sad to leave my three sisters and brother behind. I am the oldest, and my parents are getting old. They can no longer do the work they used to do before to put food on our plates and pay for our education.
When I started working in 2010, I was helping a lot. I was responsible for taking care of the house and paying school tuitions for my siblings. Leaving them behind was very hard. I felt like I was a selfish person. However, I was able to move forward because there are opportunities that do not come twice.