Kimberly Collelo’s bachelor’s degree is only the beginning of her journey.
The proud graduate plans on using her degree as a stepping stone to becoming an attorney, which she has wanted to do since she was a kid.
“I plan on taking my LSAT Exam and moving onto law school. I’ve wanted to be an attorney since I was a kid, and although sometimes life sidetracks and derails your plans, if you want something enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
Collelo had some starts and stops along the way. She lost both of her parents while she was in school.
Still, she knew she had to finish her degree to make her parents proud.
“My mom, specifically, always wanted to go to college and obtain a degree, but she got sick and was unable to keep going with her studies. That was a true driving force behind me to continue to do this for my mom even if she is gone from this Earth. I know she’s somewhere proud of this accomplishment.”
Collelo proudly walked across the stage at Spring Commencement 2019 with her family celebrating.
We spoke with Collelo about why she chose Florida Tech, how she persisted despite personal obstacles and more.
Tell us about your background.
I’m originally from Milwaukee, WI, and I’m the youngest of three girls. We’re a 100% Italian family, so being the youngest, I inevitably grew a very thick skin and learned that in order to be heard, sometimes you have to talk…LOUDLY. I am a die-hard Green Bay Packers fan, and my soft spot is my rescue dog named Rufus. I’ve always been fascinated with law. I attribute that to my mom’s obsession with Court TV (when it was still around) and watching Dateline with my parents as a kid!
What were the most important factors in your decision to choose Florida Tech?
My mom actually worked for Bisk*, so she is 100% the reason that I decided to go with Florida Tech. Additionally, I was able to work full-time, and still maintain my course schedule by taking classes online.
How will your Florida Tech degree make a difference in your career?
My degree will open an entire universe that did not exist previously. I feel like now that I have obtained my degree, the sky is the limit!
Do you have any future plans with your degree?
I plan on taking my LSAT Exam and moving onto law school. I’ve wanted to be an attorney since I was a kid, and although sometimes life sidetracks and derails your plans, if you want something enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen.
What surprised you most about taking an online program?
Taking online classes definitely requires some level of discipline, so the one area that surprised me the most was the level of discipline you develop when you really apply yourself. It almost becomes second nature. “What day is it? Wednesday. Well, I need to get my discussion question responses in!” Some people think they won’t be able to handle online classes or that they’ll require being in a classroom to fully understand the curriculum, but the resources and support you’re given completely sets you up for success.
What was the most challenging part of your student journey?
My most valuable takeaway from the program would be you get what you give. If you’re really ready to commit to furthering your education and bettering yourself, then absolutely take the leap. You see a return on your hard work and dedication, and that is truly rewarding.
What advice would you give other students who are considering enrolling in the program?
Jump! Do it! Will some of your lunch breaks at work require you to skip going to lunch with the group to work on a project? Yes. Will you be up late from time-to-time and have to make some sacrifices? Yes. However, those sacrifices are so worth it. The rewarding feeling that you receive from knowing you’ve accomplished this amazing feat is worth it! What better person to invest in than yourself? Also, you will be an EXPERT at APA format by the time you are done with your degree!
Who has been your support system?
My support system has been my parents, my friends and co-workers. When my parents were alive, they definitely instilled a level of ambition and work ethic in me to always do better and continue to grow. My mom, specifically, always wanted to go to college and obtain a degree, but she got sick and was unable to keep going with her studies. That was a true driving force behind me to continue to do this for my mom even if she is gone from this Earth. I know she’s somewhere proud of this accomplishment.
Additionally, I work at a law firm and the attorneys I work for would consistently check in to see how my studies were going and hold me accountable. Knowing that I had people to answer to and not accept any excuses was huge for me. My friends also kept me going because they know how much this meant to me and wanted to see me achieve!
What was the most challenging part of your student journey?
The most challenging part of my student journey was losing both my parents. My dad very unexpectedly passed away on the second day of the Spring II semester in 2015, and I withdrew from classes. I didn’t know which way was up, so the idea of taking a college course was as difficult as climbing Mt. Everest. I tried to register for classes, but would chicken out. I thought I was ready, but I wasn’t. Semesters came and went, and I just watched time pass me by.
Finally, I decided it was time to go back. I started taking classes again and was able to focus and work on my goal. In December 2017, I got the call from my uncle in Milwaukee, that my mom was in the hospital, and my sisters needed to get on the next flight up there. A couple days later we were holding our mother’s hand as she took her final breaths. Once again, life blindsided me. What was the point of accomplishing anything? The two people who made me are gone. I thought I had no one to celebrate my accomplishments with.
Time, again, began passing by, and I decided it was time that I not only graduated for myself, but to make my parents proud – even if they weren’t here to physically celebrate with me. My mom’s older sister, my Aunt Louise, is flying down to celebrate my graduation with me, and I could not be more grateful. I know my parents are looking down on me and will be with me on graduation day!
Who or what inspires you to succeed?
When I think back on my childhood, I never remember my parents ever saying, “Ugh! I don’t feel like going to work!” or ever complaining that they had to put in hard work. That inspired me so much and whenever I feel like giving up or like I’m not good enough, I think of my parents and I keep going. Being an example for my nephew as well is a huge driving force in my hunger to succeed. I want him to know that no matter what obstacles you face, whether you think you can do something or you can’t, you can always put in the hard work and eventually success will follow.
What is one fun fact about you?
I have one of the most insane, photographic memories. If I think hard enough, I can remember what I did on a day several years ago. My friends and family get so annoyed because I will remember what everyone was wearing, the weather that day, what we had for dinner, etc. Recalling specific dates for some reason is my strong suit!
Have you completed one of Florida Tech’s online programs? We would love to share your success story in our Student Spotlight series. Contact us at email@example.com for additional details.
*Bisk partners with Florida Tech to deliver 50+ online programs.