Making It Right

– Valerie Lorient

Valerie Lorient

I am a Haitian immigrant and a nontraditional student. I have experienced domestic violence and had mental health problems as a result. My financial resources have often been limited.

It has been a long time coming, but I am finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for my college career. 

I started college in 2010. Although I did not know what my major was going to be, I knew that I wanted to have a college degree and felt it was about time to start.  I started at community colleges (two in California and one in Pennsylvania) and finally earned my Associate’s degree from Butler Community College in 2017.  I am now nearing completion of my bachelor’s degree from Clarion University and plan to walk this May. 

Unfortunately, college has not been a cake walk. During these difficult periods I ran into problems because I did not have anyone calling or emailing to find out why I was missing class and/or assignments.  I know it’s not the job of instructors to hold the hand of their students, but being called to account for oneself is something that I needed and could have used.

I’ve also had some problems in the classroom when I’ve witnessed an instructor being derisive to another student.  Although it was not towards me, I felt the pain of it and it caused me to doubt myself because I saw myself as being no better than that student.  I’ve had other instructors who have demanded a lot from their students, but only because they believed in their students’ abilities. This was very empowering. I’ve also had instructors who have assigned a lot of work, but provided exact instructions as to how to complete the assignment – which made the workload manageable and more than doable. 

It has taken a lot of time management and personal attention to detail to get this far.  What has helped most has been attention from my instructors and their willingness to break down large assignments into little pieces.  It has helped that I’ve been encouraged by my instructors to see assignments through and that they have been available to hear out my thinking.  It was also helpful when faculty recognized and acknowledged the quality of my work – including as Psychology Student of the Month.

Receiving a scholarship from Mr. McFarland after a rough semester really showed his faith in my ability to do good work and increased my faith in myself at the same time.  And I wouldn’t have known to speak to him about a scholarship had it not been for my advisor, Dr. Slattery, who made herself available to me through it all.  Although she hadn’t reached out to me for my one bad semester (which would have helped a lot), her being available before and after really made this last semester possible. She helped me identify financial and emotional resources and provided me with options. 

Overall, the student body has been supportive of me and my learning – except for classes where I was told that I asked too many questions and felt threatened by a couple of students who made me doubt myself. 

But, I am finally on the last portion of my schooling and believe that I can make it through to the end.  I’ve had more wonderful instructors than not  – Dr. Ashcraft, especially – and that has really helped with my self-confidence. 

I am looking forward to graduating and hope that the future will contain more successes than failures.  I know that I could not have gotten this far without the helpful prodding of my advisor and those instructors who have bolstered my self-esteem and helped me identify the resources to continue through difficult times.


Valerie Lorient is a Sociology/Psychology major who graduates in May 2019. She lives in Brookville and love dogs (but doesn’t have any). French was her first language but is no longer the language of her conscious mind – English is. She loves to read fiction and enjoys mysteries, fantasy, and science fiction.

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