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Barbara Canetti

First-Generation Students

Never Give Up

Barbara Canetti, Degree Coordinator
College of Humanities and Social Sciences


        I grew up in New York in a blue-collar community where going to college was not necessarily a priority in most residents’ lives – including my own. I just wanted to finish high school and never have to write another paper again.

        My dad was an immigrant and quit high school early on; my mother went to a vocational high school and was trained in a field she never pursued. I married young, left home and worked a variety of uneventful unskilled jobs. It wasn’t until I moved to Tampa, Fl. and a cantankerous editor offered me a job at a newspaper that I felt under-educated. He hired me as a secretary – and I watched in wonderment each day as reporters came back to the office, filled with great tales and experiences as they  sat down to write their stories. I wanted to do that, too – it was far more interesting than typing letters and expense vouchers. “You want to be a reporter? That can be arranged,” the editor H. Doyle Harvill at The Tampa Times said. “But first you have to go to college.”  I immediately enrolled in the local community college, taking evening and weekend classes, until I completed the first two years. Harvill kept his promise and assigned me to cover the cops and later the courts in Tampa.

         I went on to the university, but the pressure of working 60 hours a week at the paper kept me from completing my degree. I put my education on the back burner and moved on with my career, where college degrees were not as vital as some common sense and an ability to write and report.

         Several years later I was recruited by The Houston Post and moved to Texas, working at the newspaper and later United Press International. For someone who didn’t want to write another paper, I was spending my entire day writing and reporting. It was exhilarating and absolutely a perfect match for my skills – writing, interviewing and meeting new people all the time. It wasn’t until after I “retired” from the news business to have children that I considered returning to finish my degree. In fact, I went to UH-D, majored in Professional Writing and received a bachelor’s degree.  I joined the faculty at UHD, teaching media-related classes. I later returned to college again, receiving a Master’s degree in Communication Studies.

       Going to college was a joy to me. I loved the classes, the discussions and yes, writing the papers. It took me 20 years to get the bachelor’s degree, but since I paid for it myself, I often think it was a gift from me to me. And my dad was so excited and proud of me that he went back to school, got a GED and then a college degree at age 65.

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Last updated or reviewed on 9/30/14

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