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hile she was growing up, 26-year-old
Vennesa VanWyk could never have
guessed the winding road she might take
from her home in Windhoek, Namibia, to
Middlesex Community College.
After high school, VanWyk didn't want anything
more to do with school. She came to the U.S. in
2007 to work as an au pair, returned to Namibia in
2009, and came back in 2011 to be an au pair for
a Merrimack Valley family. Then, after four years
of au pair work, she yearned for a "tertiary-level
education," and began to focus on a legal career.
Tom and Sara Clay, parents of the three children
she has been looking after, have been a blessing,
explained VanWyk. "They sat me down and said,
`We really don't need a full-time babysitter
anymore, and we would love to host you while
you go to college.' "
The Clays helped her research her options.
"Middlesex was close by, affordable and had an
American Bar Association-approved Paralegal
Studies Program. The Clays have made it possible
for me to be a student here." VanWyk began
classes in 2013 and expects to graduate in May.
MCC has been a good choice. "I feel a real sense
of community on campus," she said. "People are
friendly. I walk out of class and see lots of people
I know. A bond forged in class is not lost after
the class ends."
VanWyk is inspired by the diverse group of people
at Middlesex. "Students at Middlesex are all
ages, older and younger. I am inspired by those
who are coming back from their own life struggles
and trying to make a difference.
"It's not the end of the world if someone hasn't
achieved something by a certain age," she con-
tinued. "The message here at Middlesex is that
if you want something, you can achieve it at your
own pace when you can, how you can."
She is also thankful for MCC's supportive profes-
sors. "I've never felt discredited for the effort I've
put in. I always found advice when it was needed.
The teachers here want to see their students learn
and succeed."
VanWyk has fallen in love with the paralegal field.
"After I complete my associate degree, I'll get a
bachelor's degree in the business administration
field, then go to law school."
This past year, VanWyk served as the student rep-
resentative on the MCC Board of Trustees. "When
I applied, I wasn't sure what to expect. It has been
a wonderful experience with lots of personal and
professional growth as I've interacted with the
other trustees, and attended meetings and events.
My role is to bring the student voice, to share
what Middlesex students are going through."
As student trustee, she had not expected
to be part of a nationwide presidential search
process. However, it was exciting to help select
MCC's new college president, Dr. James Mabry
even though, "It is bittersweet to say goodbye to
Carole Cowan, who is so well-loved."
VanWyk is also active in other areas across
campus. She is one of 12 fellows in this year's
Paul H. Sullivan Leadership Institute, a 10-month
program that prepares students to become
leaders, both in work environments and in their
communities. She serves as president of the
Paralegal Club, and is a member of Phi Theta
Kappa, the international honor society of
two-year colleges.
"I'm actually shy," VanWyk said, "but the
opportunities at Middlesex have helped me
become more comfortable standing in front
of a crowd."
As much as she misses her mother, two sisters,
niece, nephews and extended family in Namibia,
VanWyk hopes to stay in the United States to
complete her bachelor's degree. "I haven't seen
my mom's face in four years, though we talk
every weekend.
"Starting school here and doing what I do now, I
honestly feel I've grown as a person and matured
inwardly and outwardly. I have found myself. I am
proud and excited, full of the energy to keep
working toward my law degree."
Anne Broyles
"Students at Middlesex
are all ages, older
and younger. I am
inspired by those
who are coming back
from their own life
struggles and trying
to make a difference. "
Vennesa VanWyk, Student Trustee
MCC Board of Trustees
Student Profile
International Student Finds
Direction and Purpose at Middlesex
Vennesa VanWyk, an international student from
Namibia, enrolled in the Paralegal Studies Program
and serves as student representative on the MCC
Board of Trustees.