June 11, 2021

A few years ago Stacey Remillard was passed over for a job she believed was hers, but understood why right away. “I realized you needed an associate degree for just about anything,” she said.

Soon after, she attended a workshop hosted by the Portsmouth Housing Authority, during which Jody Mancini and Kimberly Cartier from Great Bay Community College made a pitch for enrollment. Remillard was interested. “No one in my world had a college degree, but I was ready,” she said. “I knew the only way up and out was going to be a college degree, and I knew I needed to do something.”

She approached Mancini afterward and pronounced herself ready – a little scared, perhaps, but ready for the challenge of college. “I said, ‘Tell me about college. I know nothing about it. So please tell me what I need to know. I hear Great Bay is a good place.’”

In addition to being a first-generation college student, Remillard, 52, was also a single mom.

Mancini, a program recovery specialist at Great Bay’s Center for Planning and Academic Support, specializes in helping students navigate the college path, whatever the obstacles. She and the CAPS staff gave Remillard information about scheduling and financial aid, and helped guide her through the process of becoming a student, how to pay for it, and how to balance school with work and with life at home.

“They were able to give me a picture of what my life as a student with kids would be like,” she said.

She enrolled at the beginning of the winter semester in 2020, just as the pandemic hit, with the goal of earning an associate degree in business administration. The CAPS program helped her through her first semester, working to get a computer so she could study remotely, making weekly appointments with tutor and navigating the challenges of being a first-time student.

It paid off. Remillard finished her first year with a 4.0 GPA. She attributed her success to the support she received from the CAPS program.

“If it wasn’t for the CAPS program encouraging me during a very challenging time, I am not sure what would have happened,” she said. “The CAPS program made all the difference. They advocated for me to make sure I had all the technology I needed. They rock the house about how to become a successful college student. I am so grateful I chose Great Bay. They helped mold me into a student and gave me the belief that I can do this.”

She celebrated her academic success with her kids, who are 13 and 10. Together, they are learning what it takes to succeed in school. Before she enrolled in college, Remillard talked to her kids about what it would mean for her to be a college student – both the sacrifice of the work and the reward of the degree.

During the year of the pandemic and remote learning, the family made their educational journey together, helping each with homework and supporting each other in every way. Her kids often listened in on Remillard’s college classes.

“My kids are seeing first-hand what it takes to go to college,” she said. “I am demonstrating what college looks like to my kids. What a gift.”

Remillard has big dreams. She hopes to graduate from Great Bay in two years and continue her educational path, eventually getting a master’s in business with a focus on nonprofits. She wants to run a social services agency or some other kind of nonprofit organization. She thinks she would be a good fundraiser and administrator.

“I appreciate the role nonprofits play in a community. I have benefitted from them,” she said. “I don’t want to just sit back anymore. I want to help other people.”