Shamire Juste started college a decade ago, excited to be away at school and dreaming of some day performing on Broadway.
Then, as she said, “life happened.” After surviving a devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010 while visiting relatives, Juste’s grades plummeted and her interests changed. In the middle of her senior year, she dropped out of Binghamton University.
On Sunday, the East New York native will at last receive her bachelor’s degree, happy to have returned home to study at SJC Brooklyn and determined to become a social worker.
“It took me 10 years to finish my bachelor’s degree, but I am thankful for all the lessons and experiences that led me to this moment,” said Juste, 27, who will attend New York University’s Silver School of Social Work in the fall. “My own experiences actually led me to social work. I have gone through a lot in my life, but I continue to push through with the help of my support system. I want to be an advocate for others that may be facing obstacles.”
Juste took some time off from college before starting back up again at SJC Brooklyn in 2015. She filled the void with work and travel, she said.
“I did a lot. I moved to Washington, D.C., to be a City Year Americorps member, I was a program specialist with Girl’s, Inc. of New York City, and I joined AmeriCorps again as a VISTA with Uncommon Schools,” she said. “I was then hired full time as an office manager with one of their middle schools.”
Additionally, she compiled an impressive array of vacation destinations across the globe.
“I went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Egypt, Russia, Mexico and France,” she said. “Although I was not in school, I knew that I had to keep busy and find out what I wanted to do. I didn’t just want to sit at home doing nothing.”
All the while, she never forgot about St. Joseph’s College.
“When I was a high school senior, I was deciding between SJC and (Binghamton). I chose (Binghamton) because I wanted to experience being away from home,” Juste said. “But when I decided to return to school, SJC was the first place that came to mind, simply because I remembered how much I liked the school.
“As I researched further, I realized that it was the place for me as a non-traditional student,” she continued. “SJC offered me flexibility as an adult student that I knew I couldn’t find elsewhere.”
Gloria Gasper, Ed.D., Arthur Dolan, Liza Bowers, and Robert Polito were among the SJC instructors that were critical to Juste successful return to the classroom.
“There were moments during my time at SJC were I felt like giving up, but Dolan shared his own story of how he came to be a professor, and that motivated me to push forward despite any obstacles that I may face,” she said.
“And Dr. Gasper is one professor who invests in all her students. She pushed me to think in ways that I haven’t before. I had planned to not attend graduation because of personal reasons, but she went out of her way to make sure I will be at the graduation ceremony on May 21.”
Juste’s summer after graduation is sure to be an exciting one.
“I just got a job as a seasonal passenger service agent with Air France. I’ll be working out of JFK this summer, which is pretty cool,” she said. “On the fun side, one of my best friends and I will be going to Paris and Amsterdam in July.”
Juste shared some words of wisdom for current SJC students.
“It is easy to get discouraged – whether you are an adult student who is going part time and there seems to be no end in sight, or a traditional college student who is freaking out because you are 21 or 22 years old and you have no idea what you actually want to do,” she said. “Trust your journey and don’t compare it to others. Just keep pushing and believe in yourself.”