Use this search box to find articles that have run in our newspapers over the last several years.

Chicopee resident had long road to academic success

SPRINGFIELD He doesn't look like your average college senior, but Ronnie Shepard of Chicopee will be graduating from American International College this month with a 4.0 grade point average.

The 30-year old Shepard took the long road to graduation, a road that was filled with more than a couple of bumps along the way.

"If I can do it, anyone can," said Shepard.

"I came to AIC as a transfer student last January after a long hiatus from school. Before I started, I was working for Tapestry Health in Springfield as an Assistant HIV Case Manager, but due to circumstances out of my control, ended up only working 10 hours a week, and only had one client to deal with regularly. That helped me decide the time was right to go back to school. I had all the time in the world," he said.

But, things quickly changed for Shepard.

"Shortly after I received my acceptance letter, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. So right before my first semester began, she went into surgery. Things changed at work, as well. I went from Assistant Case Manager to Lead HIV Case Manager, ten hours to 40, and from 1 client to over 60," he explained.

On top of this, Shepard was seriously struggling financially and had to borrow money for schoolbooks from his 17-year old sister, who only worked a part time job at Taco Bell.

Shepard said there were times when he didn't think he would succeed.

"My first day of classes came, and I sat down in one of Professor Walsh's political science classes and I can in all honesty say that I was thinking to myself, that I'm not smart enough for this anymore, or I don't know how to take good notes anymore. But I persevered," he said.

Managing a full time job and full time class schedule wasn't easy, Shepard said. "Throughout my entire time at AIC I literally would drive back and forth from work to school all day. That first semester, I also squeezed in going to visit my mother everyday, who was going through radiation and chemotherapy at the time."

At the recent Academic Awards and Class Night, Shepard was recognized with academic awards from two departments. He received the Outstanding Senior Award from the International Studies Department, and an International Relations Award from the Political Science Department.

Following graduation, Shepard is headed to Ecuador, where he'll attend the International Language School, before pursuing a graduate degree.

Shepard will be one of nearly 300 students receiving diplomas from AIC on May 20.