Meet Liliana: Alumna Who Found Her Second Family at BCC!
Liliana Atanacio is a mother of two, working full-time, from another country, acquired a new language and a new culture, and became a student and employee. She is a poster child for adapting and growing. She also was the winner of the 29 Who Shine award — representing BCC as a student of achievement, perseverance, and inspirational determination. Liliana was born in the state of México, which is located in the center of the country. There's a beautiful volcano there called "Xinantecatl," which loomed just outside of Liliana's window growing up. This volcano, now extinct, last erupted 10,500 years ago. In reflecting on her home in Mexico, Liliana says "I miss my family, the tastes — the food. I started building all of my dreams there — one of which was to start a life here."
Liliana was always interested in science, partially, perhaps, because of the geological fascination sitting outside her window. She moved to the United States in 2008 — and began taking English as a Second Language at the BCC South County Center a few years ago, and then when she understood the English language, she enrolled at BCC and eventually moved to Pittsfield. "I like challenges" Liliana says about why she moved to the U.S. "And I feel like in this country, whatever you want, whatever you dream, you can achieve. That kind of hope drove me to go and work hard and succeed here." Liliana — on top of everything she has achieved as a student — is also committed to the community. She was a member of the Community Legal Aid board and she led the College's MSSO-Multicultural Students Organization, which encourages diversity and tolerance among students through cultural activities. In the spring of 2015 she also sat on a committee of students advocating for tuition equity in MA Higher Education.
"Leading the MSSO and being a part of that is where I made the most connections," Liliana said. "I find a little motivation in all of the people in my life, and the MSSO became my found family of support who are there for me and push me to do better." Liliana is one of the driving forces at the MSSO in starting a new scholarship in honor of MSSO's coordinator Eleanore Velez, who had a deep impact in so many students' lives. "We definitely wanted to honor Eleanore for all the work she had done at MSSO, but moreover for the inspiration in our life to do more for ourselves and as a result for that, give back to the community." As part of the Student Government Association (SGA) Liliana received the transfer scholarship from the SGA and is planning on transferring to UMass Amherst next fall to get her Bachelor's in Chemical Engineering.
Liliana managed all of this — without access to traditional financial aid, and all the while raising her children and holding down a full-time job. She found solutions to problems, she assisted and mentored her peers, and she navigated the college experience with grace and ease because she is a strong, independent woman — who others admire for her courage and tenacity.
Leading the College's MSSO and being a part of that is where I made the most connections. I find a little motivation in all of the people in my life, and the MSSO became my found family of support who are there for me and push me to do better.