Stepping Stones for Success

Hello, my name is Ainsley-Aude Croteau and I am a Great Bay Community College student. I started at Great Bay because it was an affordable choice for me. College wasn’t always an option that I had; I didn’t consider it practical with what I earn or my lack of advantage with loans and grants. I’ve always wanted to go to the University of New Hampshire (UNH), and was on my way there after high school when I realized it would be impossible to pay for. It felt like a door slammed in my face! The disappointment was discouraging. I took a couple semesters at Great Bay to get a head start before money came my way, but I just couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with my life anymore, I didn’t know if I was cut out for school. After realizing a four year college may never be in the plan for me, I just didn’t feel motivated to continue trying.

I spent two years after that feeling my way through life. Working retail, some customer services jobs, never feeling very secure - it was miserable. I knew I didn’t want this for the rest of my life, but I didn’t know what else to do! I felt like I was in a maze and there was no end, just a big circle with annoying twists and turns. It wasn’t until I started playing around with computers to try and find something new to do with my free time in attempt to break up with the monotony of my week that I realized, “You know, I actually enjoy doing this! Not only is this a fun hobby, it can be applicable in life!” So, I started thinking seriously about going back to school.

Obviously my first choice was to try UNH again. I sat down in my room, all these necessary documents strewn about me, the UNH application on my laptop before me, and I realize – no, once again, there really is no practical option for me to pay for UNH. I couldn’t even gather enough loans. I had to consider a new path again, but with a secure and desired future ahead of me with my love of computers at my side, I was feeling confident this time. Great Bay was the most logical first step for me. It was affordable, I could cover the tuition with the amount of loans I was getting each year, and I could pay for my books out of pocket if I needed too. More importantly, Great Bay offers classes specifically designed for transferring to UNH. It was perfect; I could begin by taking these classes that would pave my way to a four year degree at UNH. Not to mention that if I graduated Phi Theta Kappa with an Associate’s Degree, this would open doors for scholarships and grants when I do finally transfer to UNH. All I had to do was keep my mind on my goals and get good grades.

But it wasn’t enough; I wasn’t content with simply taking a few classes during the week and poking around on my computer at my leisure at home. I wanted real-world experience - I needed more! To me, it was evident that I needed a job that gave me a real-world advantage in the technical world. I knew exactly what to look into; I didn’t even struggle with this. I learned about the UNH InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL) from a handful of my friends who work at or had worked at the UNH-IOL and told me all about it. After learning about the wide array of benefits for working at the UNH-IOL it became a particularly strong option for work. The UNH-IOL offers real-world experience in the technical world, it placed students in a normal work environment, and it empowered students to learn, volunteer, and discover their abilities to be a leader. The UNH-IOL also provided networking for students who graduate and are ready to step into the world with a job. Most importantly, it’s a work environment built for students. They consider your grades your number one priority, they ask students to build their own hours around their school schedule, and they’re a UNH company!

The fact that the UNH-IOL is a UNH company didn’t restrict me from being considered as a potential employee, too. Although they’ve begun by hiring UNH students, the UNH-IOL is expanding by hiring students who go to community colleges in the area. This is exceptionally exciting for me as a Great Bay student. Not only because it has opened the door for me to work at the UNH-IOL, but it’s become my first opportunity to volunteer and grow as an employee at the UNH-IOL by offering my free time to the Marketing Department as a sort of liaison for the UNH-IOL to Great Bay. Already I’ve told fellow Great Bay students about the UNH-IOL and happily convinced some to send their resume along!

This is such an important thing for me. As a Great Bay student with ambitions to transfer to UNH, the UNH-IOL is a great stepping stone to a successful career after college, and particularly for me, a great stepping stone for my student career having already connected me to UNH before transferring. I feel privileged that it’s opened its doors to a community college student. I’m excited to extend this invitation to other Great Bay students and like my friends before me, who have shown me the UNH-IOL and the opportunities within, motivate them into taking this foundational step to success.

Ainsley-Aude Croteau, Broadband Technician