Ruth Velarde ’23 persevered to overcome incredible odds to complete her NCC education and stay on track to succeed.

Ruth Velarde knows about strife, conflict and overcoming challenges. It seems like they have been part of her life since her early years, growing up in politically torn Peru.

When the Sendero Luminoso, an infamous Peruvian guerrilla group, made it unsafe to stay there any longer, Velarde’s parents sent her to live with a sister in New York. Little did she know that a gauntlet of difficulties awaited her.

Velarde eventually settled in New Jersey, married and started a family. She took English classes at night, but her husband soon became resentful of her time away from home.

With her passion for education undaunted, Velarde spoke to a local community college counselor about enrolling. Although the counselor presented her with a number of roadblocks, she remained undeterred and began taking classes without the counselor’s knowledge or support.

However, arthritis struck Velarde so severely that she couldn’t crack open her textbooks, and she dropped out of college. But her problems didn’t stop with her studies. Her husband soon became violent, which eventually led to the couple’s divorce.

Eventually, she remarried and had a son with her second husband, but her bad luck in marriage persisted. Her husband began drinking and using drugs. Things got so bad that he threatened to kill Velarde, her children, and himself.

One day, as her husband slept, Velarde escaped with her family. In search of a better life, she moved to Easton, Pa., and filed for divorce from her abusive husband.

It was a fresh start for Velarde, who was due for a break. “I have learned to never give up,” she said. “That’s my biggest accomplishment, not giving up. To keep on going even when the odds seem to go against you.”

In the Lehigh Valley, she began treatment for her medical issues and found her way to a popular local college — none other than Northampton Community College. And there, she says, is where the magic happened.

She applied to NCC, was accepted and even received the Harold A. & Marcia Wagner Scholarship and the Nancy A. Taylor Endowed Scholarship. She thought to herself, “If they believe that I can do it, then I believe I can do it,” she says. “That gave me the little push I needed to keep going.”

Advisors guided her to an academic path (psychology)…and a future. A tutor taught her how to write effectively. Through a women’s and gender studies class, she says, “I stopped being a victim of my past. My past is my experience. I was set free.”

Velarde graduated in spring of 2023 and is continuing her studies in social work and psychology at East Stroudsburg University this fall. “I want to specialize in working with older adults and in geriatric psychology,” she said.

“I am training as a volunteer for the Crime Victims Council of the Lehigh Valley. My goal is to work with the elderly, but I want to be able to help people at any stage of their life.”

Velarde has finally left her painful past behind and is on track to a much brighter future!