Sharibel Urena was born in New York City and moved to Berks County with her parents when she was in elementary school. She loved studying chemistry, biology and French in high school, so when she graduated from Wyomissing Area High School in 2011, she was eager to continue these studies in college.
Due to her excellent high school academic performance, Sharibel received a full scholarship to RACC. She enrolled in RACC as a science transfer major. “RACC gave me the opportunity to experience college close to home before deciding which four-year institution was right for me.”
With the guidance and support of RACC faculty and staff, particularly Jane Dietrich and Jodi Corbett, Sharibel’s transfer process was smooth. “RACC’s great selection of academic programs and ease in transferring to four-year institutions was very helpful. Having knowledgeable mentors and excellent counselors at RACC allowed me to stay on track with my academic goals.” Sharibel transferred to Albright College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a minor in French within four years of graduating high school.
In addition to immersing herself in trigonometry and chemistry her first year at RACC, Sharibel took advantage of the various opportunities to get involved on campus and in her community. She was a chemistry and math tutor and continued to do so at RACC even after transferring to Albright. She was a member of the International Club where she made great connections with people from around the world. There, she participated in the annual International Festival, and spent several hours volunteering to help RACC raise over $15,000 for Caitlyn’s Smiles, a local charity. Sharibel got her first taste of the performing arts when she participated in RACC Idol and won 2nd place in the competition. “I developed an even deeper passion for performing at Albright by joining the Women’s Chorale and I continue to sing with a local select chamber choir and volunteer in a community performing arts organization, Barrio Alegria.”
Sharibel also took advantage of the cross-registration program to continue her French education at Albright while taking classes at RACC. “I was placed into a 300 level French course at Albright as I attended classes at RACC and excelled at it for the next three years. Plus, I was also able to study abroad for a month in Paris.” Sharibel ultimately earned a 3.9 GPA in French, was inducted into the National French Honor Society, Pi Delta Phi, and became fluent in her third language, in addition to English and Spanish.
Thanks to the excellent education and experiences she received, Sharibel was well prepared and qualified to work professionally in the scientific field. Her first position after graduating was at a pharmaceutical laboratory as a chemist in Lancaster. The technical experience Sharibel gained there made her a perfect fit for a position much closer to home at Carpenter Technology, where she currently works as an environmental chemistry laboratory technician. “The STEM courses I took at RACC were the foundation for the higher-level science courses I took later in my academic career. The literature and speech classes and the diverse backgrounds of the people I met at RACC helped me grow from a very shy, quiet student, into one that was comfortable speaking in front of a classroom and performing on a stage.”
Becoming a nurse was always a dream for Stephanie Ritchey. After overcoming some life challenges, she finally made that dream a reality by graduating from RACC. “Learning the art and science of nursing at RACC taught me compassionate care, efficient time management, and adherence to the principles of safe practice.”
Stephanie graduated with honors from Daniel Boone High School, continued her education as a biology major at Villanova University, and became a patient care technician. She relocated to Berks County and decided to continue her education. Staying in her community was important to her when choosing a school, but location wasn’t the only reason she selected RACC. “RACC’s reputation spoke for itself. I heard that the RACC nursing program was rigorous and challenging but would provide a strong base for my nursing career. Plus, attending RACC afforded me the experience of performing my clinical hours in locations where I could potentially work after graduation.”
Stephanie was hired at Penn State Health St. Joseph before graduating RACC with an AAS in nursing. St. Joseph was one of the hospitals where Stephanie performed her clinicals while a student at RACC. Now as an RN, she enjoys being able to teach the current RACC students in their clinical rotations at St. Joseph. “When I was a student many of my nurses were former RACC students. Now I’ve assumed the role of taking RACC students under my wing. It felt really good to once be on the receiving end of that mentorship, and now be a mentor myself…I love that feeling.”
The education Stephanie received at RACC not only gave her the knowledge to guide students, but it also prepared her to become a very successful nurse. “I learned important time management, safety skills, and to be accountable for my actions. The program was a process of learning to think, act and react like a nurse. My professors taught me how to think differently, critically.” Stephanie has several RACC professors to thank, Kathy Evans, Karen Hartman, and Mihaela Pendos, for challenging and inspiring her to think, learn and teach in new ways. But of all of her teachers, Professor Joan Zupicick made the biggest impact on Stephanie. “Professor Joan taught me about the kind of nurse I aspire to be. Her faith in me makes me want to be not just a better nurse, but a better human being. She is with me, guiding me during every shift I work.”
Stephanie is currently working toward her bachelor’s degree at Chamberlain University and has started the application to be a volunteer disaster relief nurse for the American Red Cross. Stephanie’s nursing career is just getting started thanks to her commitment to hard work and the educational foundation she established while at RACC. “The experiences and relationships you make at RACC form the foundation for a successful career, whatever your path.”
For Twila Fisher, RACC was just the right environment to developing the kind of tenacity she would acquire throughout her years in college. “My time at RACC prepared me for my career by reinforcing the drive to work harder than I had before, to think outside of the box, and to embrace people from all walks of life.”
After graduating from Lancaster Mennonite High School, Twila moved to Mexico City and then to Miami before moving back to Pennsylvania and settling in Berks County. At that time, Twila put her education and career on hold to begin a family. When her four daughters were all in school, Twila enrolled in school herself at RACC. “I pursued RACC for myself for the same reason I recommend it to people of all ages: location and affordability.”
While enrolled at RACC, Twila received the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation Transfer Scholarship which allowed her to pursue her undergraduate degree at Columbia University. “Nothing seemed insurmountable after pushing through the commute to Manhattan’s upper west side twice a week for two and half years and the academic rigor of Columbia.” During this time, Twila received a second scholarship from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation allowing to continue her studies. She finished her graduate courses in eighteen months at the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government.
During her time at RACC, Twila took advantage of the excellent student life organizations to help her gain more out of education. She served as the president for the Student Government Association and was involved in the Student Leadership Program. She also had many influential teachers that were encouraging forces in her education. She says their guidance and teachings have stuck with her to this day. “Dr. Donna Singleton inspired me to explore my potential in academic excellence, Stephanie Anderson taught me to write with purpose, and Dr. John Morgan challenged me to explore my belief systems and to dream big.”
Twila is currently the director of community and economic development at The Hill School. She serves on six different boards and committees including the Tri-County Area Chamber of Commerce, Barrio Alegria in the City of Reading, and an advisory board for the Olivet Boys and Girls Club in Pottstown. Twila says that sometimes people say to her, “you must be so smart since you went to Columbia and Penn.” She replies, “I’m not smarter than anybody else, I just work hard. Like anything in life, you get out of it what you put into it and RACC taught me that at a critical transition in my life.”
Pam Gockley had a difficult start to her education. After being expelled from high school, Pam sought guidance and support, luckily she found RACC. “My education at RACC was far beyond the books, tests and reports. The spirit I found in the students, faculty and staff was far more inspirational than the diploma.”
While in high school, Pam struggled with learning and was placed in special education classes. Later in life, Pam discovered she was undiagnosed dyslexic and the special education classes were the worst place for her as a kid. “It was in these classes, that I was bullied, and the school lacked the ability to deal with what I was going through. This is what ultimately led to me getting expelled.”
When Pam first enrolled at RACC she quickly learned that she had a lot of catching up to get her education to the college level, but she admits this is one of the best things that could have ever happened to her. “The faculty and staff at RACC took the time make sure I was prepared to go onto the college courses. That was huge for me because it was the first time someone in education made the effort to understand where I was academically and actually helped me through the process.”
After graduating from RACC and Kutztown University with a degree in Business Management, Pam started her own business and has continued to be an entrepreneur for 22 years. During that time Pam has had 13 for-profit startups and more recently, one non-profit. “After 22 years of entrepreneurship I feel that it’s finally time that I give back and help kids that are in the same position as me and even much more violent situations, including gun violence.”
Pam’s recent start-up is called The Camel Project and is based on Pam’s book, “Not All Camels Are in The Desert.” Pam wrote the book to share her high school experience with students, and how she overcame the problems. “My mission is to help kids understand that first, it’s not their fault; second, they are not alone; and third, it happens to more people than most realize.”
The first initiative of The Camel Project is a stop bullying program that helps kids learn about self-awareness, self-confidence, and how to create a great support system; all of which Pam was lacking in high school. For Pam, RACC was the launching point to understanding how an educational institution can help a student become a better version of themselves. “At RACC, there was a sense of family, security and encouragement I never knew before. I totally credit RACC for helping me throughout my education, for showing me what should have been done and giving me the inspiration to go out and help others.”
For Joshua Riojas, RACC was just the beginning of his successful journey. “My professional work experience and education all started at RACC, and the school deserves a tremendous amount of credit in how I have progressed through life professionally.”
Joshua graduated from Conrad Weiser with no immediate plans for a career. He knew a four-year college didn’t suit him, so he chose RACC for his education. “I wanted to keep costs down and since I didn’t take my SATs seriously, I considered community college as my best option.”
While at RACC, Joshua received a Foundation Scholarship which encouraged him to earn more than one degree. Joshua graduated from RACC with two Associate Degrees in Web Site Development and Computer Technology.
One of Joshua’s instructors, Marty Kelly, who is also RACC’s webmaster, gave him an opportunity to work as a work-study in the web department. “Over the years of employment at RACC, Marty was a wonderful supervisor who made every effort to see me thrive academically and professionally. People like Marty are the reason why a student should go to RACC.” Marty not only encouraged and supported Joshua while he was at RACC, but they stayed in touch after graduation and continue to be close friends.
Joshua directly credits RACC for providing him with a pathway not only for transferring to a four-year college but also for gaining employment opportunities. “My education at RACC enabled me to acquire part-time work at the college. Plus, it was instrumental in obtaining an IT Internship at Morgan Corporation, which continued a trickle effect as I transferred to PSU.” Joshua was able to leverage his work experience at RACC to get a web internship in the Marketing and Communications Research Department at Penn State. Joshua ultimately graduated from Penn State with Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Computer Science.
Joshua currently works at Cerner Corporation as a System Engineer and as an adjunct lecturer at Penn State, Harrisburg campus. Joshua’s immediate plans moving forward are to continue to explore fields within Computer Science, further his education with various IT/System Administrator certificates and focus on improving his lectures for his college classes.
Joshua feels that RACC was a turning point for him and continues to highly recommend RACC as a starting point for anyone looking to further their education. “RACC provides many dual admission opportunities that facilitate easy transfer of credits; and the classes, instructors and work-study programs help you calculate a trajectory for your career.”