|June 3, 2005
Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456 or
Toni De Rosa (Supan) said she just wanted to be “normal” like everyone else on campus. But because the California State University, Bakersfield student had to deal with strokes and some sight and hearing loss she would be anything but.
Despite these challenges she’s not letting anything stop her from receiving her degree. And on Saturday, June 11, the 55-year-old will reach her goal when she receives her bachelor’s degree in communications. And her educational journey isn’t over just yet.
It would be difficult to find someone more resolute than De Rosa. “I was told in 1997 that I would not be able to finish school because of my brain damage,” De Rosa said. “However, I am and always have been determined to prove those who say I can’t wrong. … Getting my bachelor’s degree is something I’ve felt I’ve always wanted since I graduated from high school in 1967. … In my old life (when she was working) I could never get past the secretary title or job description.”
Her high school dream of earning a college diploma wouldn’t come easily. De Rosa had a stroke in 1989 that left her blind in one eye and wearing hearing aids on a daily basis. Even though she was faced with these challenges she became a renegade and received her associate of arts degree in liberal studies from Bakersfield College in the early 90s.
Life didn’t get any easier. She suffered another stroke in 1997, which caused cognitive disabilities. “I have little or no short-term memory and difficulty with organizational tasks,” she said.
This didn’t help her being a college student. “The biggest struggle I’ve had is accepting my limitations. … I remember acing algebra and being asked to tutor over at BC before my second stroke. However, I almost didn’t pass intro to algebra when I decided to return to school (at CSUB). … I had an algebra instructor remind me that I’m not the same person, I had to accept I was a completely different Toni.”
De Rosa said she had difficulty remembering information for tests and required note takers, but she didn’t want or receive any special treatment.
She is grateful for her understanding instructors. “I want to thank professors Judith Pratt, Beth Rienzi, Mary Slaughter, John Emig, and Elizabeth Jackson,” De Rosa said. “These professors helped make my transition from feeling completely disabled to accepting and understanding my limitations and helping me work through them. I also couldn’t have made it through CSUB without the advice and counseling from Janet Millar.”
De Rosa has enjoyed her time as a Roadrunner, earning a scholarship from the Bakersfield Californian and being inducted into Lambda Pi Eta – the honor society for the communications department.
She also has established new friendships. “Toni was very intent on making CSUB her new family,” said Pratt, CSUB communications professor. “She would go out and do things with her fellow students. She helped push them to graduate. And now those students are pushing her. Toni is right in line with President (Horace) Mitchell’s wish for students,” Pratt added. “He wants students to get the full college experience - Toni wanted that and that’s what she got.”
And De Rosa said she’s not finished with the blue and gold. She plans to get her master’s degree in English and become a college professor. “I need goals,” she emphasized. “I need something to always be striving for.”
De Rosa’s determination is even inspiring those at the head of the class. “As a faculty member it’s so wonderful to see her passion,” Pratt said. “I don’t know if I could have done what she did. I admire her courage.”