“As a child, I had a dream to become someone,” said CCBC student Venessa Illunga. It was this dream that kept her moving forward as she endured hardships in grade school and at home while growing up.
Human Services Counseling
At age 4, Ilunga’s family moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Uganda to start a new life. Her parents struggled to make ends meet and pay school tuition and fees for Ilunga and her siblings. Meanwhile, Ilunga faced constant bullying at school.
When Ilunga was 17, her family moved again – this time for good – to the United States as refugees. Ilunga entered high school in Maryland as a freshman and immediately tackled course requirements to graduate early. She learned about CCBC when an admissions counselor visited her high school. Ilunga realized CCBC’s accessibility and affordability would make attending college within her reach.
Fast forward to today and Ilunga is on the homestretch to earn her associate degree in Human Services from CCBC in spring 2023. Scholarships and financial aid covered Ilunga’s costs as a student, and public transit got her to campus, although she took many of her classes online. She found a job in the Student Life office and took up volunteering as a Student Life Ambassador, doing community service and helping out at CCBC’s student food pantry.
Ilunga initially wanted to become a lawyer, but through her coursework and activities at CCBC she discovered social work was her true love. She hopes her own experiences of overcoming the odds will help others, and that her story will inspire people to believe in themselves.
“I am passionate about helping people in different communities, especially helping the homeless, immigrants, orphans and other groups of people find the resources they need to live the kind of life they want,” said Ilunga, who plans to transfer to a four-year university to complete a bachelor’s degree in social work.
Academically, Ilunga credits CCBC’s faculty for supporting her throughout her time in college. She also took advantage of CCBC’s tutoring services to get ahead in her classes.
“I have had amazing communicative and understanding professors,” she said, noting Associate Professor of English, Maura Hill, and Assistant Professor of Math, Mary Gore, in particular, gave her individual support and encouragement.
Looking back at her journey, Ilunga said her free schooling in the United States was the answer to her family’s prayers. The resources provided by CCBC were a blessing and have provided her with the education she always envisioned for herself.
Now the next leg in Ilunga’s career path is about to unfold.
“I am so excited, but I feel sad at the same time because I’ve had such a great experience at CCBC. I’ve connected with so many people,” she said. “CCBC released my potential and really showed the gifts and talents that I have and that I can offer to the world.”