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URI student/soldier overcomes dark past for bright future
KINGSTON, R.I. –April 25, 2011– Cynthia Limoges of North Kingstown is like the mystical Phoenix bird that arose from its ashes to begin a new life.
Born in Galveston Island, Texas, Limoges’ mother abandoned her and her sister when Cynthia was 5. Her father died when she was 8. Raised, in part, by her grandparents and in various family members’ homes, she suffered physical, sexual, and verbal abuse.
In the ninth grade, she joined the Air Force ROTC. “The instructors were my saving grace,” she says. When she graduated high school, she left home only with the clothes she was wearing and a small backpack.
“It was my day of glory and I never looked back. The military has been my only family, my means of survival,” says the University of Rhode Island honor student. “It’s been one hell of a journey,” she adds, with a wide smile. “A life-learning experience. I have fallen, but by the grace of God, I’ve come back up.”
Limoges’ latest achievement will be a bachelor’s of arts degree in psychology, which she will receive during commencement ceremonies at URI’s Kingston campus on Sunday, May 22. The 34-year-old student took the majority of her classes at URI’s Feinstein Providence Campus.
Her journey to earn this degree took 10 years, two deployments to Afghanistan as a Rhode Island Air National Guard in 2007 and 2010, full-time employment as a victim’s advocate, and the birth of two sons, Ethan, 8 and Benjamin, 2.
She enrolled at URI as a part-time student in 2007. When she came off of active duty in 2008 (she stills is in the Guard reserves), she wanted to become a full-time student, but worried how she could balance life as a single mother, her work demands, her military commitments, and classes and homework. She recalls sobbing while sitting in Professor Cleveland Kurtz’s office. “For every negative, he had a positive,” she says. Kurtz has since retired.
Keeping positive, she thrived and excelled. A highlight of her time at URI was an internship. Working with Fran Cohen, URI former Dean of Students, she helped found PAVS (Providing and Assisting Veterans and Significant others) to help veterans transition from the battlefield into the classroom setting. PAVS has morphed into the URI Supports Student Veterans Committee. URI currently has 310 students receiving veteran benefits.
At the same time she became a full-time student, she became a full-time victims advocate with the R.I Attorney General’s office. As an advocate, Limoges ensures that victims of violent crime such as rape, domestic violence, and more are informed of their rights and receive referrals to counseling. She prepares them for trial or grand jury testimony, if necessary.
“I can certainly appreciate what they feel,” says the soon-to-be URI graduate. “There isn’t much that they can say, that I haven’t experienced.”
Limoges plans to take a year off before entering a master’s and doctorate program in clinical psychology with a focus on marriage and family. She promised the year to her husband, Army Sergeant Michael Limoges whom she married in 2008, to focus on their family. He will be deployed to Kuwait in September.
URI Department of Communications & Marketing photo by Michael Salerno Photography.