When Emily Cott first enrolled into Villa Maria College’s Achieve Program for Students with Learning differences, she didn’t understand what her strengths were. She didn’t know what she wanted to major in, and she didn’t have a vision for her future career.
In Emily’s own words, she struggled with communication – especially with her professors, not studying as much as she needed to for exams and interviewing for internships.
Now entering her senior year, Emily has worked hard to develop the skills she needs to be successful inside and outside the classroom. She has become a standout student and a leader among her peers. Her journey was not always easy, but her commitment combined with the support and services she received from the Achieve Program, it became possible.
One of the first ways in which Achieve helped Emily was through the Career Readiness Program. The Career Readiness Program utilizes one-on-one coaching and specialized workshops to explore major options, future career paths, skills and strengths assessments, and part-time jobs to help Achieve students build their resumes and gain professional experience. By making use of these services, Emily determined that she was best suited for Villa Maria’s Business Administration major with a minor in Computer Software Development.
The Career Readiness Program also helped Emily get and complete two on-campus internships, one in the College’s admissions department and the other in the College’s business office. Each internship helped her expand her skill set, gain professional experience, and build out her resume. Perhaps most importantly, these opportunities gave her more experience with interviewing – something she struggled with initially. The Career Readiness Program will continue to support Emily as she applies and interviews for an off-campus internship and prepares to transition from college student to young professional.
Emily has also worked with Achieve to meet her academic goals. Her own desire to succeed was supported by the individualized services that are exclusively available to Achieve students at Villa Maria. Over the past 3 years, Emily has worked diligently with Achieve staff to develop learning strategies that helped her focus and do her best work.
By working with Achieve’s professional tutors she began to excel in her business classes and on writing assignments. Achieve staff also supported her as she worked on building her soft skills, like time management. “With the help of the Achieve Program, I’ve seen an increase in my memory skills, problem solving skills, and independence,” said Emily. Her efforts have paid off. She completed the Spring 2022 semester with a 3.7 grade point average.
With her academics in good standing, Emily set her focus on meeting another personal goal — growing socially. “One of Emily’s personal goals was to meet new people,” said Laura Pietak, Villa’s Achieve Program director. “She set herself up for success by serving as an orientation leader, volunteering to work open houses, speaking on student panels, and attending more of Villa’s Student Life events. As a result of all her efforts, Emily has become the go-to peer for prospective and incoming students. She has made new friends and further developed existing relationships.”
This year, some of Emily’s favorite on-campus events were the College’s Halloween and Christmas parties, Bingo, and, of course, Achieve’s End-of-Year Celebration.
At this year’s Achieve celebration, Emily’s positive attitude, dedication, and service to the College were recognized when she was named the winner of the 2022 Team Spirit Award.
“The Team Spirit Award is given to the student who aligns with the College’s mission and values, has shown growth academically and socially, is someone who advocates for themselves and demonstrates advancement in their career path,” said Pietak. “Based on the progress she’s made academically and socially; Emily was the perfect fit.”
“Throughout the year she has strived to be positive — even during hard times,” continued Pietak. “Her efforts have paid off as she completed her junior year successfully.”
With her senior year on the horizon, Emily is remaining focused on her academics and getting that off-campus internship. After graduation in May 2023, Emily hopes to stay in Western New York and become employed by a large company. “I currently work at Wegmans, and I would like to continue working there at a higher level,” she said. “I’m also interested in working for M&T Bank.”