A PCCC Success Story
From Both Sides of the Desk
Fairleigh Dickinson University
“I’m living my dream, “says Professor Jennifer Gasparino, a 2007 alumna who holds an MSW degree and is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice as well as a full-time instructor on the PCCC faculty.
“PCCC gave me the foundation for my success, and now I have the opportunity to help other students build that foundation,” she said.
A mediocre student at her New Jersey high school, Professor Gasparino did not do well in her first college experience at the University of North Carolina. “I had the potential to do better, “ she said, “but I just wasn’t ready for college yet, so I left after only two semesters.”
A single mom, she worked for several years in the banquet catering industry, first in North Carolina and later when she moved back to New Jersey. “It was hard work and not much satisfaction,” said Professor Gasparino.
“I wanted to have a purpose in life,” she explained, “and I wanted to teach my daughter the importance of having a purpose.”
Hoping more education would lead to a meaningful career, the young woman applied to Rutgers, but was rejected, due to her weak performance at UNC.
On a friend’s suggestion, she tried PCCC. Still uncertain about her direction in life, young Jennifer told her advisor, “I want to work with people,” and was counseled to try an introductory course in Human Services.
“That did it for me,” said Professor Gasparino. Inspired by the field and by her teacher and future mentor, Professor Michael D’Arcangelo , she found her calling in social work.
The professor describes her entire educational experience at PCCC as “amazing,” and said, “The professors, administrators, and staff were so helpful and supportive that I felt as though I walked into somebody’s home.”
The support helped her to succeed in school while holding down a full-time job and raising her young daughter. “I took advantage of what PCCC had to offer me,” said Professor Gasparino. “I push my students to do that, too, and to realize what great resources they have available to them here.”
One of her most significant opportunities came through the fieldwork requirement for her Human Services major. “I did my fieldwork at a clinic in Passaic, and afterwards was offered a job there,” she said. “I was very fortunate that I was able to work in my field while attending school.”
After graduating with her Associate in Science degree in Human Services, Professor Gasparino earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and social work at Fairleigh Dickinson University and her master’s in social work degree at New York University.
On weekends, she sees private clients in her Jersey City office where she works with adolescents and families, specializing in trauma and substance abuse counseling. During the week, Professor Gasparino can be found in a PCCC classroom, providing her students with the same support and guidance she once received here.
Not only has the professor found her purpose in life, she also succeeded in imparting that sense of purpose to her daughter who is now pursing studies in advocacy for the Deaf…at the University of North Carolina. “It’s come full circle,” said Professor Gasparino, laughing.
With the goal of integrating her two careers, Professor Gasparino plans to eventually earn a doctorate, though she hasn’t decided yet whether it will be in social work or higher education.
For now, she is focused on planting the seeds for future success in her students. “When they come back later and tell you about the next degree they’re working on or the jobs they have, it’s an amazing feeling.”