Kimberly Quinonez graduated in 2023 from Elms College with an Bachelors degree in social work

A native of South Carolina, Kim grew up in a life of poverty, addiction, and homelessness. After getting clean – “Praise god!” – she moved to Massachusetts to improve upon her 6th-grade education. Completing her high school equivalency at STCC at age 43, she enrolled in that college’s two-year associate’s program in social work. Earning her degree, she met Wally Soufane, social work specialist from Elms, who suggested she enroll in the bachelor’s degree completion program offered through Elms College’s Sister Kathleen Kirley ’66 School of Continuing Education. There she could build off her STCC associate’s degree and earn her bachelor’s degree in social work from Elms in just two years.

Recalling the day she learned she had been accepted into Elms, she said “It was the best day of my life.”

She said she remembers feeling apprehensive for her first few weeks at Elms, mostly because she was worried her background and education history was too much to overcome. But she said she learned early on the Elms is different from any school she has ever known. Students were welcoming. Professors were demanding yet compassionate. “Elms professors are amazing. They interact with you.”

At times when she wanted to quit because it was too hard, they would not let her.

“They made me feel as if I belonged. I never belonged to a school that made me feel I was a part of something. When I went to Elms I fit right in. I never had that feeling before,” she said. “My life transformed in so many ways, I learned to set goals, study skills, time management skills. Elms has grown me into a mature adult. I have a new compassion for the human race that I never had before.”

She wants to become a counselor for people who also face substance issues. She is employed by the Hampden Sheriff’s Department where she counsels inmates who have problems with addiction.