Education

We are interested in understanding how women and girls in Worcester have experienced learning, both through formal institutions and through life experiences and relationships. This theme includes women and girls’ experiences within, and access to, schools and higher education, as well as other avenues to knowledge and skills.

Filomena Cesareo

Lawyer, Spouse of Assumption College president

I can’t even tell you what triggered it, besides my mom telling me that I liked to argue, but I always said, “I’m going to law school, I’m going to be a lawyer.” I [now work] in estate planning , where I don’t even see a courtroom.  Estate planning is very detailed work…but I think it gives people peace of mind…It just makes people feel like, “Okay, I know when I leave, everything is taken care of, I don’t have to worry about that.” [My children] saw my work ethic because they knew a lot of times when they went to bed, I was going to work [at home]. It was probably the best fit ever, because I was able to work from home when my kids were little.

Filomena Cesareo was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1964 to Italian immigrants. She is the second of three daughters and attended Albertus Magnus College in New Haven. During this time, she studied business and political science and met the man who would later become her husband. After graduation, Filomena continued her study of political science as a law student at

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Thu, 03/21/2019
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Rachael Shea

Librarian; Sacred Fire Keeper

I have followed two principal ancestral traditions. I have done a pilgrimage in the Huichol tradition. Huichol Indians live in Mexico and I did a proper pilgrimage where you fast and you go someplace and then you walk a long way without food or water and you make prayers to a sacred site. So, I did a pilgrimage but it took me 12 years to do a 6-year pilgrimage in Mexico and that has informed me in one way. And then before that and then after that, I have found teachers in the Lakota tradition and so I study and work with them. So sweat lodges in Temescal and prayer, that sort of connecting to the Earth, looking for how all of us beings on this planet are connected.  I'm no greater than the tree, no more important than that rock, and we all need each other to survive and how do we do this together. But this kind of ties in with me being a librarian because I know that what our species needs to do is to learn how to be together and to share and to be respectful of things even that are other from us. What librarians do is they teach people how to share things like books and lights and chairs and computers and rooms and that sort of thing. And we have stories of the ancestors from many different cultures so we've become more aware of different ways of seeing the world. That’s what our species needs or we won't make it. So that’s my spiritual tradition and it's my work here. 

Rachael Shea was raised in Worcester, MA, and attended Burncoat High School, University of New Hampshire, and earned her master’s degree at Columbia University. She is a librarian and has worked at College of the Holy Cross, Worcester State University, Clark University, and the American Antiquarian Society. In this interview she discusses growing up in the Burncoat area and the changes she has seen in Worcester.

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Sun, 04/14/2019
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Margaret Watson

Professor and Dean, Quinsigamond Community College

I was the head of a department when there were very few heads of department and one of the male administrators in the college said to me, “Margaret, you look like a woman, but you think like a man.” But I don't think that was intended as a compliment.  I didn't take it that way because I'm not sure what that means. Well how do men think characteristically? How do women think characteristically? I would suggest that women concentrate on critical thinking. That they work with their analytical skills and they'd be objective about them. That they consider causality and extrapolation. I’m not sure that that is thinking like a man, but it’s how intelligent human beings should be. Use the data and make a judgment on that.

Margaret J.K. Watson was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1936 and raised on a farm in Southern Michigan. Upon completion of high school, she attended the University of Michigan where she received her bachelor’s and master’s degree in Education. She continued her graduate study at Ohio State University despite the limited opportunities that were provided to women at college level education at the time. She spent the next 36 years at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA, serving as faculty member, administrator, and Dean of Academic Affairs.

Interview Date: 
Sun, 03/17/2019
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Susan Perschbacher

Professor; Director, Worcester Institute for Senior Education

I think success is doing your personal best and just really trying.  When I did that gerontology program, I thought that was a success here, and I passed it on to a really good person when I left.  Starting the service program, that took me ten years here, and turning that over to a good person.  Now the WISE program for senior learners, when I started it was 300 now it’s almost 500.  There’s a lot of older people in Worcester and it’s a great program.  Maybe getting something and making it a little bit better.  But I’m proud, I’ve done my best, I’m proud of my academic achievement.  I’m most proud of my daughters.  But I’m not proud of them, I’m pleased I had them.  They’re not a success, they’re just the greatest source of meaning.  All my research when I finally got started in academia was on making meaning of late life for older people.  And I do think that making meaning is something we should all be thinking about.

Susan Perschbacher was born in Appleton, Wisconsin in 1946.  She spent her childhood living in Denver, before she eventually moved to Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts.  After graduating from Denison University she took many jobs before eventually landing at Assumption College.  There she was a professor of sociology and also took on roles for many social programs, including the WISE [Worcester Institute for Senior Education] program.  Ms.

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Tue, 03/12/2019
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Tracey Hippert-Kenny

Principal, Leicester High School

I learned how to build relationships with my students and make the learning material relevant to them, make them excited about it, even students who necessarily didn’t love to learn French or love to learn Spanish. I made them excited about the culture or the food or whatever it was I could to find a connection for them, and most of my students ended up loving the classes. From there, I started to find professional development type things where I was leading professional development for my colleagues, and I realized that people respected the work that I did, they learn from my workshops or my seminars. So, I learned that my skill could be enhanced there and to move to the next level. Again, being an assistant principal, I was very involved with the students and their activities and their day-to-day lives and I loved being an assistant principal. I really really enjoyed that that job. However, the position as principal opened up, and I really wasn’t sure. I was very hesitant about whether I wanted to move into that role, because I love working with students and that’s why I went into teaching in the first place. And I had a mentor say to me that I can make the role as a principal as much about the students as I choose to do. So, I decided I would give it a go, and see if I liked it. And I think as a principal I’m very actively involved in the students’ lives. I know every single student in my school by first name, it’s a small school but I still know everyone by name, I’m very active in their activities: the plays, the sports, the musical events, performances. I spend all three lunches in the lunch room with students every day, I greet students at the front door every morning, I’m in the halls I’m in classrooms, and I’m able to still make the difference in the climate in the school while remaining involved with the students so I like what I do.

Tracey Hippert-Kenny is currently the principal of Leicester High School. She was born in Washington DC in 1972 and grew up in and attended high school in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Tracey moved to Worcester to attend Assumption College as an undergraduate, and then pursued her graduate degree at Worcester State. In this interview, Tracey highlights her evident leadership skills she embodied as a teacher and as the current principal at Leicester High School in Leicester MA.

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Fri, 03/08/2019
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Joy Rachelle Murrieta

Musician; Music Teacher, Worcester Music Academy; Founder, Main Idea

I try to give myself this advice every day. That is, don’t ever let fear be the reason you don’t do something, go for something. If that’s the reason, do it anyways. And two, try to pace yourself. Try to be gracious with yourself and others.

Joy Rochelle Murrieta was born in Sandwich, Massachusetts in 1986 and attended Crown College where she studied Music Performance and Christian studies. In this interview Joy was 31 years old. Joy identifies as half-Mexican, her mother is white and is from Colorado, and her father is Mexican. Joy’s family move around while she was growing, and she discusses some of her experiences in different parts of Massachusetts and Colorado. Joy opens up about the hardships she went through while growing up with her mother and sister having medical problems.

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Fri, 09/22/2017
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Hilda Ramirez

Assistant Director of the Latino Education Institute, Worcester State University

But success for me right now is more about enjoying my time at work. Doing the best that I can to accomplish successes for others, not for myself anymore. And so to me, success means helping other younger professionals achieve their goals and I do that a lot here with college students who I see.  And I make sure to connect them to a professional job and sort of that cycle of having them give back to their community and be part of that. So that's what success means for me today.

Hilda Ramirez was born in the Dominican Republic in 1964 and ten years later her family moved to New York City. She faced challenges as a non-English speaking child, but through strength, perseverance, and the guidance of a bilingual elementary school teacher, Hilda found academic success. After professional achievements in the male-dominated corporate sector, Hilda returned to school and earned a Master’s in Administration and Social Policy at Harvard University.

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Mon, 08/06/2018
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Jane Petrella

Community Activist

The school [was my inspiration].  My children had been finished with grammar school for a long time, but I kept pursuing it knowing that they needed a new school there.  I mean the play yard was all broken  in front of the school, the cement or whatever it was made of.  So, I kept pursuing that and we did get a new school.  They put in the new school and they put in the library, which we didn't have, and then they dedicated the library to Jane Petrella.  If you want to go down, my picture is there.  Again, it was a neighborhood event.  We had a true artist in the village who painted my portrait.  The "mothers’ club" engaged his doing it.  I guess it is the "parents’ group" that they call it now.  People come up to me and say, "Thank you for the school."

Jane Petrella was born in 1933 in Wheeling, West Virginia.  Throughout this interview she speaks about her education through college and many of her experiences growing up with several brothers and sisters.  Jane married Frank Petrella and they had six children together.  Jane speaks about her children and the ways in which they inspired her to become an activist and a responsible member of the community.  Jane and her family moved to Worcester in September of 1960 when her husband received a job at College of the Holy Cross where he would teach economics.  Jan

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Thu, 04/06/2017
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Barbara Mercier

Retired Teacher; Community Volunteer

But the unrest of the ‘60s was HUGE but I was pretty isolated from that.  At Worcester State we were still pretty much, even though it was no longer called Worcester State Teachers College, we were mostly a teachers college. Everybody went into teaching. We had to wear skirts, we could not wear pants. This was up until 1968, even in a snow storm.  As far as free expression, not a lot of it was encouraged. If the student newspaper came out with anything controversial it would disappear. Administration would whisk it away. So even though Kent State and all these places were starting, at Worcester State we were separated from that.

Barbara Mercier, born in December of 1946 is an extraordinary women although she claims to have lived an ordinary life. Barbara and her family moved to Worcester, MA from Billerica, MA when she was just fourteen years old. She said the transition was hard but she overcame any and all obstacles. She attended North High in Worcester and then went on to study education at Worcester State College from 1964-1968.

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Wed, 10/25/2017
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