After Leah Mohammed-Vargas graduated in 2008 from Boston's Snowden International High School, she headed to nearby Newbury College to pursue her dream of earning a degree.
As a first-generation college student, she worked hard and excelled in course work, loving the academic environment of a college campus.
“After I completed my freshman year, I had to drop out of college to help support my family. My mom was unable to work and my younger brother was in high school, so I needed to help pay the rent and bills. I was devastated to leave Newbury. I felt like a failure, but I never gave up on that dream, and I was always hopeful I could go back to school,” said the Jamaica Plain resident.
She joined the workforce, starting in retail, when a friend told her about the Year Up program, which helps young adults gain skills and experience, while supporting them to reach their potential through career and education.
“I joined Year Up, was trained in IT, and started working in a professional environment. This gave me confidence and led me to work on college campuses. I began as a temporary worker in the Wheelock College admissions office, where I was encouraged to restart my education. My colleagues suggested that I attend MassBay due to its affordability. MassBay provided me with a high-quality education, allowing me a path to achieve my degree. After starting my classes, I landed a job in the MassBay admissions office. I was earning money to support my family, while securing credits toward my degree,” said Mohammed-Vargas.
Mohammed-Vargas studied liberal arts at MassBay, focusing on communications and earned her degree in three years.
“I wanted to focus on both school and work simultaneously and MassBay provided me with the flexibility I needed to do that. I was determined to succeed, not only for me, but for my mom, and to show my little brother he could do it, too,” she said.
She graduated from MassBay in May 2017 with her associate in arts degree and transferred to Suffolk University to pursue her bachelor’s degree. At Suffolk, she majored in global and cultural communications with a minor in English and worked in their graduate admissions department. She graduated from Suffolk in May 2021.
“I’m lucky to have had many strong women in my life—my mom, my Wheelock colleagues, my MassBay professors and administrators—behind me, supporting me, and showing me a path forward. It has taken me 13 years to earn my associate and bachelor’s degrees, but I am so proud that I achieved my goals and did it all debt-free. I credit a lot of my success to MassBay and the supportive people teaching and working there. MassBay is how it all started for me, and I could not have walked into a better situation to prepare me for my future. Now, I’m focused on earning my master’s degree in fine arts at Emerson College in popular fiction writing and publishing. As someone who’s passionate about writing, and the effort that goes on behind the scenes, I would love to work in publishing someday, helping writers achieve their own goals,” said Mohammed-Vargas.