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Her vision of college, career achievement
was family affair
KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 23, 2003 -- As if being born with macular degeneration wasnt enough of a hurdle, Giulia Jaramillo also faced old-world family resistance to her going to college.
"I always wanted to be a therapist," said Jaramillo, who was born in Italy with the severe sight disability, and raised in Westerly. "But my father was upset because he did not believe women should be allowed to go to college. I was ready to go, but he told me to unpack my bags because he wasnt going to support me."
So instead Jaramillo became a hairdresser.
After 18 years of hair dressing though, her brother Gennaro Ferraro, who was a senior at the University of Rhode Island, began urging her to go to college. "My sister basically raised me," said Ferraro, who is 13 years younger than Jaramillo. "We were always very close, and it was time for me to help her become a therapist. I told her she was giving people advice all day long at the beauty shop anyway."
On Saturday, May 17, family members applauded as Jaramillo and Ferraro were awarded masters degrees at URIs Graduate Commencement. Her degree is in marriage and family therapy and his is in secondary education.
The 42-year-old Jaramillo, who has never been able to drive, has at last achieved her dream, and is working as a therapist at United Community and Family Services in Norwich, Conn. Her brother, a resident of Johnston, has been a science teacher at Burrillville High School for seven years.
When she began pursuing her bachelors degree part-time, Jaramillos entire family got into the act. "My husband, Daniel, was very supportive, and my two sons were very excited. My kids, Daniel, and I would sit around doing our homework together at night. Daniel was pursuing an associates degree at Community College of Rhode Island at the time." She graduated summa cum laude in 2001 with a URI bachelors degree in human development and family studies.
"It was a positive time, because my sons, who are now 12 and 15, got a chance to see me and my husband grow," she said. "We grew along with our sons."
During her undergraduate years, in addition to her brother and husband, she credits URI faculty members Sylvia Spears and Stewart Cohen and Pamela Rohland, coordinator of disability services. She also praised her Italian professor, Paschal Viglionese.
Jaramillo can see, but not well enough to read without adaptive devices. "I just cant fine tune my sight," she said.
Throughout her graduate and undergraduate years, she rode the bus to Kingston. Now she takes the bus from her home in Pawcatuck, Conn. to Norwich for work.
After earning her bachelors degree, she applied right away to the 60-credit marriage and family therapy program at URI. "The best part was learning from the faculty and staff that I had it in me to help people. I was on the right path."
Professors Peter Maynard and Jerome Adams and Dale Blumen, coordinator of the marriage and family therapy clinic, made it a wonderful, supportive experience, she said.
"Life is never easy," Jaramillo said, "but its all in your approach. I knew there was more to life than living under his (my fathers) rules."
Ferraro chuckled when he remembered his sister nearing completion of her masters degree. "You know, I went part-time because I coach football in the fall, and I told her she couldnt finish before me."
He said Jaramillo has been an inspiration to him. "I think when I have it tough or start to get down, I just look at what my sister is doing."
When he thinks about what he and his sister and their brother, Arcangelo, a Westerly area landscaper, have accomplished, it makes him tingle.
"My mother and father came from a hillside village in Italy, but they set the bar high for dedication, hard work, and having passion for what you do. I am proud to say that we all took full opportunity of the chance they gave to us by coming to this country."