Rachel Caliguiri studied psychology so she can pursue a career as a counselor for people with disabilities, “I have always had a passion for helping other people.”
Rachel was born with a physical disability, Cerebral Palsy, and uses assistive devices such as a walker or crutches to get around, although she is working on learning to walk independently. “Growing up, and even still today, the people who have come and continue to come into my life who see who I am as a person, beyond my disability, and treat me like they would any other person my age have made a huge positive impact on my life.”
To pay it forward, she wants to be that person who sees past someone else’s challenges when they may feel all the world sees of them is their disability. “That is what made me decide that I wanted to become a counselor for people with disabilities.”
With a best friend who is Deaf, Rachel also completed the Sign Language certificate in December 2020 so they could better communicate – and so she can communicate with future clients who use sign language. “Although I am not Deaf, and cannot relate to exactly what those who are go through every day; I can relate to feeling isolated from others due to not being able to do many activities that others my age enjoy doing, such as drive, and walk independently.”
She also knows what it’s like to navigate environments that are not accessible. “I wanted to learn sign language, so that people who are Deaf like my friend, know that somebody cares about them feeling comfortable and included in different situations, cares that information is accessible to them, and cares about them getting to enjoy experiences to the fullest.”
The College Journey
Rachel chose NCC for its affordability, convenience to home, and seamless transfer pathway to a bachelor’s degree – which she plans to use toward a degree at Plymouth State University. “I have been accepted and have committed to Plymouth State University living on campus as a mental health psychology major.”
She said the best part of college is studying subjects she’s passionate about, and participating in a psychology program internship. “I learned so much and had so much fun getting to intern remotely with the Nashua Center and United Way of Greater Nashua,” she said. Her internship led to a position with the United Way through the summer.
“I have been working part-time with their Learn United Tutoring Program, and will keep doing that through the end of the school year,” said Rachel in May 2021. She will continue to work with United Way full-time over the summer through AmeriCorps, which is also under the Learn United Tutoring Program.
“While working with this program, I have been matching students in the Nashua area who have been struggling with learning remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic with volunteer tutors. I also schedule these sessions in with employees from the different in-person tutoring locations such as the Police Athletic League and some of the different Nashua YMCA locations, as well as scheduling monitored remote tutoring sessions over Zoom. I have matched student and tutor pairs who are now meeting at the Boys and Girls Club, Girls Inc., and the Adult Learning Center,” she said.
“It has been so much fun and it feels so rewarding to know that I am helping the students get the help that they need and that they no longer have to struggle as much in school once they are able to meet with their tutor.”
Advice to Future Students
Looking back on her time at NCC, she said adjusting to college life was a big change, but the overall experience has been “amazing.”
“My advice to future students is that it is perfectly okay to be scared and to still face challenges at the same time. Facing challenges, whether they might be a physical disability, a battle with a mental or physical illness, learning challenges, or anything in-between; does not make you any less capable or successful. Facing challenges and overcoming obstacles, even if those obstacles are something that you have to keep facing everyday of your life, are what make you beautifully unique,” said Rachel.
“How successful you are is not about how ‘perfect’ you are; being perfect doesn’t exist. It is about how many times you get up after you fall down, about showing compassion to both yourself and all others, and trying your best every day, no matter what your ‘best’ that day may look like.”