Gateway’s Gates Of Opportunity Open

After she lost her job to a corporate relocation, Debra Bagni got a second chance, and took it.

Bagni (pictured) worked for AT&T for 13 years. Then the company outsourced her division to India. AT&T did pay for her to go back to school. She went to Gateway Community College.

Thursday night, Bagni, who is 47, was one of some 950 students who received diplomas at this year’s Gateway Graduation, held at Woolsey Hall. Now she has a nursing degree—and a new career path.

For mid-career students like Bagni, some of them collateral damage from the recession or corporate downsize or relocation, or for others who hadn’t been ready to take the immediate leap from high school to college, Thursday night’s graduation represented a second chance.

Bagni earned a $1,200 Nightingale Award for Excellence in Nursing scholarship this month toward her education.

“I love Gateway. I became the mom of the class,” said Bagni, who is married to Tracey Skomro and has three dogs. She has though about pursuing a job at a surgery practice or an inpatient psych ward. Meanwhile, within the next five years Bagni plans to finish up her masters degree and to begin teaching.

“It is possible,” Bagni said. “If I can do it anyone can do it. I hated high school but I now have honors. I think I am more successful now opposed to if I did [college] out of high school”.

Meagan Jordan PhotoThe ceremony began with the national anthem sung by Gateway Community College student Lauren Smith. In addition to handing out diplomas, Gateway gave former New Haven Mayor John DeStefano the President’s Award for his efforts to bring the college from Long Wharf to its new downtown campus.

Joseph A. Libretti (pictured), 25, of New Haven, won the Best All-Around Student award. He earned straight As this semester—having come a long way from the days in which his had little interest in attending college.

“I wasn’t even going to go,” he said. “A good friend of mine, Nick Naclerio, got me in there and made sure I got loans.” Now Libretti is pursuing a dream: to run the number-town heating and oil company in Connecticut. With his Gateway diploma, he has obtained an internship with a local small business.

As the commencement came to an end, families lined up to congratulate their graduates. Among the well-wishers was Rashon Fuller, whose mom Sharon Gorham graduated with a degree in medical administrative assistance. Gorham, a single mom, is planning to work for a doctor’s office. Like Bagni, Gorham had lost her job to a corporate restructuring and was offered the opportunity to go back to school.

“It was a lot of work and studying but it paid off,” Gorham said as she embraced her son in front of Woolsey Hall.



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posted by: BenBerkowitz on May 23, 2014  9:57am

Great stuff. Its been awesome to have Gateway as part of the downtown community.

posted by: connecticutcontrarian on May 23, 2014  11:41am

Finally some good news! Congrats to all of the graduates.

NHI..I’d love to see a piece about Gateway’s impact on the Greater New Haven community. With all of the discussion of employment stats and job opportunities it seems Gateway is actively engaging.

posted by: Seth Poole on May 23, 2014  3:07pm

Congratulations on your new career paths!