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Spotlight on the Class of 2018

Katherine Tapia

Associate in Arts Degree in English
with Highest Honors
Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society
English Graduate Achievement Award


From Peru to PCCC in Pursuit of Her Academic Dreams

Posted May 10, 2018 

When it comes to education, Katherine Tapia dreams big and takes risks.  It’s a family trait.

“My grandmother was principal of an all-boys school at a time when women in Peru didn’t hold such positions,” Katherine said. “People criticized her for that, but later, the town named a street after her.”

By that measure, the granddaughter would merit a highway.  Dissatisfied with the limited educational choices available to her in Peru, Katherine left her home in Lima, the capital city, and came on her own to the U.S. seeking bigger opportunities. 

That quest eventually brought her to PCCC where Katherine will serve as co-valedictorian and receive her Associate in Arts Degree in English with highest honors at PCCC’s 46th Commencement this month. She is also the recipient of the 2018 English Achievement Award.

The aspiring journalist maintains a 4.0 GPA, is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society, Editor-in-Chief of the College newspaper, and a freelance reporter for The Paterson Press, a local online news outlet.

She is also the mother of three children ages 8, 6, and 4. “I don’t sleep much,” she joked. “I’m very academically driven.  My family and my studies are my whole life.”

The Clifton resident started her life in this country ten years ago, working as an au pair for a family in Princeton where she fell in love with the town and university. “It’s my dream to attend Princeton,” she said.  “I would go to the campus and just breathe in the air there.”

Katherine’s goal is to earn her bachelor’s degree in English and write for the New York Times, preferably as an international news reporter.  “I want to travel to different places, explore different cultures, and write about those experiences,” she said.

Claiming a “passion for fairness,” Katherine wants to use her writing ability to “give a voice to the voiceless,” a goal that arises from both her discontent with the restrictions placed on journalists in Peru as well as her lifelong commitment to volunteerism.

“That seed was planted in me when I was very young by my mother,” explained Katherine, recalling the first time she joined her mom on a volunteer team distributing bags of food to those in need. “I was only three and probably not much help, but I learned a lot from that wanted to continue helping others.”

Katherine’s love of reading and writing also started young. “I was always asking for books and writing poetry, stories, and even essays” she said.  Today, her writing for VISIONS, the student newspaper at PCCC, informs and enlightens the College community…and readers beyond.

As she prepares for the next phase of her education, Katherine said she will miss PCCC. “I didn’t fully appreciate PCCC until I was here,” she said. “It’s a perfect place for students to develop their excellence, because the professors, advisors, and staff are very nurturing and so committed to helping students succeed.”

Katherine expressed gratitude for the support of English professors Alexandra Della Fera and Christine Redman-Waldeyer and also singled out Professor Alan Mitnick.  “The passion he puts into his work makes you believe you can do anything.”

With a family to care for, Katherine considers her work study jobs at PCCC “a blessing” that helped make her success possible.  She praises PTK as “a wonderful resource that offers students opportunities and scholarships and also practical skills like resume writing and job interviews.”

Characteristically, Katherine aimed high in her transfer goals, applying to Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, and Cornell.  “I don’t expect to be accepted by all of them, she said, “but I didn’t want to not apply and later wonder what could have been.”

Katherine has not made a final decision yet about her next step. And she still dreams of Princeton. “If not now, maybe for my Ph.D.”