After graduating from high school in 1996 in California, Danielle has found the right time and place to return to college and pursue her dream of becoming a child psychologist.

“It was just time. My life was able to align between my kids going back to school, I’ve been wanted to do child psych since high school in ‘96,” said Danielle in August of 2023, adding she’s also met many people who had a difficult time accessing a counselor, especially since COVID.

“I felt that calling again.”

Danielle is simultaneously working on her associate degree in Psychology and her Addiction Recovery Support Worker certificate.

While returning to school after a nearly 30-year hiatus was intimidating at first, she said the experience has been overwhelmingly positive. “It was really intimating at first, like ‘oh here comes an old lady’ – but my fellow classmates were so great, and so welcoming. I was so impressed by all of them. You hear negative things about the new generation, but they ask questions – and I came from a generation where you do what you’re told. They have a fresh look.”

Many Nashua Community College students are fresh out of high school, but the student body includes high school-aged students in Dual Enrollment programs, to adult and retirement aged students changing careers and learning new skills. The average NCC student age is 25.

Now tackling two programs at once, Danielle anticipated her greatest challenge would be time management between raising her 3 children and her husband’s busy schedule as an airline pilot.

“But I find that being older, I’ve had a shift in perspective and managing my time; and it’s been an easier transition that I expected.”

Beyond the classroom, Danielle’s had hands-on experience through her psychology capstone project as an intern with the Nashua Children’s Home, where she served as a companion and mentor for some of the youth there. The internship came out of her summer 2023 capstone class with Professor Jayne Barnes.

“I have a great internship with Nashua Children’s home, I was just so impressed by it. From the street it looks so small and unassuming, but it’s this huge house.”

The Nashua Children’s Home began as the “Nashua Protestant Orphanage” back in 1903, and has been in operation ever since.

Danielle described the home as split into a space for older girls, younger girls, and younger boys. And another space on Concord Street in Nashua for older boys.

“They set it up like a family – the have chores for allowance, they are expected to keep their spaces clean to build that sense of personal responsibility – it’s probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve done besides becoming a mom.”

She said she’s learned a lot from her internships. “They are resilient, they are survivors – I’ve learned more from them then they did from me. As an intern, I couldn’t be alone with them or drive them anywhere, but I was allowed to sit and talk to them, and if they wanted to talk and share how they were feeling. It’s more of a mentorship role. I didn’t try to be a mom figure, but maybe an older sister role. There’s never any judging – I wanted them to feel accepted and be themselves.”

Danielle hopes to continue working with the Nashua Children’s Home after her internship in a per diem role. “It’s very much like a home there. There are psychologists and therapists and family therapists who try to integrate them back into their home, and if that doesn’t work, they help prepare them for when they age out. They are very focused on teaching them life skills. They sit and eat dinner together, they go over their goals – like a family meeting. A chef comes in and cooks for them, and they can cook for themselves. It’s very much like a cozy home.”

Nashua Children’s Home Training & Recreational Coordinator Daniele Ferreira commented on Danielle’s time as an intern. “Danielle was an amazing person to the kids and the staff in her time here; she was very kind, patient, and accepting which is what kids who have experienced trauma need in order to open up and talk about their experiences to heal and overcome their past challenges. Danielle was incredibly dedicated to her role that she established with the kids and the staff despite having her own children at home, her coursework, and life in general…that is certainly no easy task.”

“Danielle does fantastic work with youth who have experienced abuse, neglect, and trauma and I sincerely hope that her educational pursuits lead her to working with this population of youth in some capacity as she is exactly the type of person that they need,” said Ferreira.

Professor Barnes said Danielle has been an excellent student, “I have been impressed with her ability to be resilient, optimistic, and empathic, her enjoyment of interacting with other students, and as a result of her life experiences, adding so much to our class discussions.  She is a great role model for other students since she always is looking to see how she can learn and improve and asks for constructive feedback and direction.”

After she graduates from NCC next spring, Danielle plans to transfer to a four-year program in New Hampshire to complete her bachelor’s degree.

To fellow adult learners who wish to continue their education, she said don’t hesitate.

“Just do it. Don’t be afraid, don’t overthink it – it’s so rewarding. And like I said, as an older student there’s that shift in perspective. I have a rapport with the students, and the professors – I’m in between. We can be colleagues or a parent relationship. I can relate and emphasize on both ends, I’m so glad I did this.”

Learn more about the Psychology and Addiction Recovery Support Worker programs at NCC

Contact the Nashua Community College admissions team, [email protected] or 603.578.8908. 

Have a student or alumni story you’d like to share? Contact our Alumni Network team at [email protected]

Degrees and Certificates