Rani Mirabella never expected to go to college. She came to the United States from India when she was a teenager, earned her GED, and worked as an administrative assistant for an investment banking firm in San Francisco.
It was while visiting relatives in southern California that the idea of going to college was first planted in her mind. Her cousin, Rani said, "was reminding me that in the United States we have the golden opportunity to attend college at any age. But at the time, I was married and had a six-month old baby. How would I ever be able to go to college? I told him I just had to accept the fact that I had missed my chance."
After returning home to the Bay Area, Rani thought a lot about what her cousin had said. "I decided to go to the admissions office at the San Ramon Valley Campus, and it was there I met Anne Uawithya. With my baby in my arms, I asked her if she thought I could attend DVC.
"She urged me to take an assessment test to see where I would be placed," Rani said. But even the thought of the word "test" scared her, because she was sure she wouldn't pass. "Then Anne told me it wasn't that kind of test, that I should just relax and give it a try. She also told me about PACE, which sounded very interesting."
One thing led to another, and Rani enrolled. "At first I just wanted to take one class, because I didn't think I could succeed. Then, when I got an A in my first class, I thought I would go for an Associate Degree. Even then, the thought of taking 20 classes to get an Associate degree sounded like an uphill battle which I was sure to lose!"
But succeed she did, achieving an outstanding GPA at DVC, which led to a $5,000 Alumni Scholarship and transfer to the University of San Francisco. There she earned a bachelor of science degree in organizational leadership, and a master of arts degree in teaching ESL.
"Attending Diablo Valley College changed my life," Rani said. "The experience of taking the general education classes gave me a deeper understanding of myself and my place in society. It gave me profound gratitude for my life and the opportunities which I have been given." She recently started on her doctorate degree in international and multicultural education at the University of San Francisco.
In January, Rani was accepted as an ESL instructor at Contra Costa College in San Pablo. "My career as an instructor is deeply gratifying," Rani said. "Once I receive my doctorate and as my son gets older, I hope to travel and teach internationally."
When she looks back, Rani said, "I can't believe that this story is mine. I feel so blessed that I have found my life's purpose. Being an immigrant and displaced from my family, I was split between cultures and confused about my identity. I was in a rut, stuck in a job that was taking me nowhere. It was through the academic journey that I found my true calling. As it turns out, I am completing the circle by not only being a student, but also being a teacher."
Does she have any advice for other returning students?
"PACE is a great way for us moms and returning students to further our education," she said. "Don't be afraid! There were many times when juggling personal, professional, and academic commitments was overwhelming. During those times, I recalled my previous accomplishments so I could reaffirm my confidence in overcoming the most difficult goals in life. Everyone has something to be proud of. Recognize your talents and build on that success. Dare to dream big and don't let anything stop you from making your dreams come true."