Name: Kathleen Vina
Hometown: Red Bank
Major: Labor Studies and Employment Relations
The Rutgers campus became my son’s favorite weekend get-away. It usually ended with a stop at Barnes & Noble and a walk around Voorhees Mall, our favorite hang-out spots.
I transferred from Brookdale Community College when my son Zachary entered kindergarten. It was a bumpy adjustment for both of us but one I would do again in a heartbeat. The Rutgers campus became Zachary's favorite weekend “get-away.” It usually ended with a stop at Barnes & Noble and a walk around Voorhees Mall, our favorite hang-out spots.
It was a time of great personal challenge. At about the time I became a Rutgers student, Zachary was diagnosed with multiple disabilities. As a special needs mother, I truly felt I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. As I worked toward my degree, I was also navigating doctors’ appointments, therapies, and research for my son. But the Rutgers experience seemed to bring me the knowledge and confidence I needed to become a strong voice for my son. In pushing myself as a student, as well as a parent and advocate, I learned a great deal about myself and hope I can someday help others.
I somehow stumbled upon the major of labor studies, though I soon realized it’s where I was meant to be all along. Knowing all too well what it’s like to work dead-end jobs and spend little time with my son, I'm motivated to help other moms caught in the same vicious cycle. There's a tremendous need for more flexible, family-friendly systems in the workforce that will allow moms and others to find their calling, engage in productive, meaningful work, and advance in their careers. Additionally, there is a need to ensure that workplaces are inclusive and respectful of the rights of those with special needs.
Zachary was my driving force and my biggest cheerleader. But I could not have completed this challenge without my boyfriend, Keith. Now that I am completing my undergraduate degree, I hope to now give him the same gift of support in his journey to completing law school.