- High School: Corcoran, Class of 1975
- Major @ OCC: Human Services
Valerie Flanagan spent 30 years raising her three children. Now she’s focused on her own success. This is her time. “When my youngest son left the house I finally had some time to think about what I wanted to. Giving back to the community has always been important to me.”
Flanagan had started college four decades earlier. After graduating from Corcoran High School in 1975 she attended Spelman College in Atlanta. She was a year away from earning her degree when life happened. She gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. “Once I had my son I had to start working and paying bills. School wasn’t an option. My hands were full.”
Flanagan eventually returned to Central New York with her two youngest children due to her mother’s health. Three years ago her youngest son enrolled in Syracuse University giving Flanagan the time and freedom to think about continuing her education.
In 2015 Flanagan made the decision to come to OCC. Her daughter was attending OCC and has since earned her degree. Flanagan received assistance from the OCC Foundation when she was awarded the Gifford Scholarship. It is funded by the Rosamond Gifford Charitable Foundation and helps students from underrepresented backgrounds. “The scholarship was really big for me. It removed a lot of the financial burden. It also motivated me. Knowing that someone believed in me made me say to myself, ‘You can do this!’”
Flanagan’s dream of helping others led her to the Human Services major where she has found a home. “Professor Tina May has been wonderful. I have a good rapport with her and all of my professors. They have so much information to share and I’m happy to receive it.” Flanagan has been an outstanding student and was recently inducted into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa.
Outside class Flanagan works full-time and is also co-director of Junior Frontiers of Mohawk Valley, an organization which mentors students in both Syracuse and Utica throughout their high school years and prepares them for college. “We help them in the areas of academic preparation, when to take standardized tests, public speaking, college tours and individual guidance through college, financial aid and the scholarship application process. The whole process can be daunting.” One of their recent success stories is Chidera Joseph, a 2016 OCC graduate who is now a student at Cornell University.
Flanagan’s goal is to get her master’s degree and set up programs which will mentor teenage moms. “I know I was 23 when I had my oldest son and it was challenging for me even at that age. As a teenager it has to be overwhelming. If you can help the mom it’s going to help the child. If you can help the child it’s going to help the community.”
Flanagan will earn her degree from OCC this May.