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Graduate built second home for herself at CCRI
May 16, 2014
The Community College of Rhode Island wasn't Tiffany Rezendes' first stop after graduating from Classical High School in 2012. Instead, the Providence native headed straight for Rhode Island College.
"I thought that CCRI was for people who weren't quite ready for a four-year school yet, and I was ready," she said.
Quickly after starting at RIC, however, Rezendes said that she was second-guessing herself. Her pastor had encouraged her to look into CCRI, and she always felt the nagging sensation that maybe the college would have been a better place for her. "'You should give it a try,'" she recalled him telling her. "'The professors have a lot of wonderful experience, and you'll save a lot of money.'"
Rezendes, 21, had started work on a major in social work and began to research what classes would transfer to CCRI at the end of her freshman year. She said that when the time came to start her sophomore year, she quickly fell in love with the college.
"I loved the small campus, and how people are so friendly," she said of her time at the Liston Campus in Providence. "I could have conversations with random strangers in the atrium. There are friends that I have had here since my first semester. I didn't have that same experience at RIC."
Rezendes said that, ironically, it was CCRI's status as a commuter college with no one centralized campus that made it a friendlier environment. Whereas at RIC she said it was easy for people to take advantage of the ready-made friendships that were there for them in the dining hall and in the dorms, Rezendes said that students at CCRI had to remain more open to pursuing social interactions with one another when the opportunity presented itself.
"I wasn't immersed enough at RIC. CCRI is my second home now. The social support is really important to me, and I got to meet so many different types of people – people from all over the world," she said.
While at CCRI, Rezendes threw herself into the college community as much as possible, both to meet people and to experience new opportunities. She said that she had always been interested in social work, but that through her work at CCRI, discovered she was more interested in psychology in particular. She will earn her Liberal Arts degree with a concentration in psychology with a 3.82 GPA.
A foray into the DECA club gave her an insight into the business world, something she said she never would have considered before. And she was able to participate in faith-related activities on campus, holding weekly Bible study meetings.
When she wasn't studying or participating in club activities, she was building another home for herself at the Student Success Center. She was walking around campus handing out résumés when a chance encounter brought her in touch with Jeffrey Heiser, coordinator in the Success Center, who hired her on the spot.
First, Rezendes worked to help fellow students choose classes and answer questions about different procedures at the college. Later on, a psychology professor recommended that she be hired as a tutor at the Success Center, and she began helping her fellow psychology students excel.
"I love it," she said. "It really opened me up to the possibility that I might be interested in teaching in the future, too."
Whether it's in the Success Center, in her work as a church member and youth leader of Legions of Christ Ministries or in her day-to-day life, Rezendes said that helping people is always her first priority. To her, having an interest in counseling is something that makes a great deal of sense: "I find that people who have been through a lot of things in their lifetime like to give back," she said.
Rezendes said she had her share of personal difficulties to overcome. But through her own determination to succeed no matter what was going on around her, combined with her faith and the support she received at CCRI, she said she was still able to do well even when stresses were mounting.
"Coming to CCRI was the best thing I could have done. I've seen how much I've grown, and that this was where I was supposed to be from the beginning," she said.
One last avenue she is exploring is perhaps becoming a pastor. Rezendes said that her faith is something that she "really gives her all to. ... I didn't really grow up in the church," she explained. "But when I really started to get serious about it was my junior year in high school. Jesus is someone who has changed a lot of things in my life, and he is someone that I've seen that I've been able to use to help people that I've come into contact with."
She still has a few years ahead of her to figure out the next step after she earns her bachelor's degree, though, and she's not in any rush to narrow her focus of possibilities. For Rezendes, every connection and every person she meets is an opportunity to learn more, to see what she might be interested in and to expand her horizons. She said she will take a year off to work and research where the best fit might be for her to continue with her studies. Until then, she'll no doubt have the lifelong friends she made at CCRI to lean on and continue to learn from.
"I'm really going to miss it here. It's been a great experience," she said.
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