Gennifer Meneses: Many helping hands led to 2024 graduate’s success ‣ Laurel Ridge Community College
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Gennifer Meneses: Many helping hands led to 2024 graduate’s success

photo of group at table
Gennifer Meneses and her children at TRIO's bonfire this spring.

2024 graduate Gennifer Meneses is proud to have achieved her academic goals, but shares how grateful she is for those at Laurel Ridge who helped her along the way.

In May, she earned her associate degree in early childhood development. Meneses is transferring to James Madison University in the fall to continue her studies online as she earns a bachelor’s degree in education.

“It’s exciting,” she said. “I feel I reached my goal, but I still have more goals in the future.”

Meneses hopes to teach early elementary school. By completing her bachelor’s degree online, she will be able to remain home with her son, Rayan, 2, the youngest of her three children.

Getting to this point hasn’t been easy for Meneses, who also has two daughters, Jaimee, who is in high school, and Eileen, who is in elementary school. As a young child growing up in El Salvador, Meneses went to school for half the day, and spent the other half working on a coffee plantation with her brothers and sisters, picking the beans from the trees.

But, even back then, she dreamed of coming to the United States and pursuing her education. And, she showed glimpses of her future vocation back in Central America.

Growing up, “I always liked to help my classmates,” said Meneses.

In fact, she would sometimes get in trouble for helping them a little too much with their school work.

Through Laurel Ridge, Meneses completed practicum hours at Apple Pie Ridge Elementary.

“I loved it because the people there are very nice and kind,” she said.

Getting to graduation took Meneses, a mother of three, more than a decade. She started by taking ESL classes with Dr. Miriam Moore.

“She is amazing,” said Meneses. “She worked with me. At the time, I felt I wasn’t capable, and she encouraged me to keep going forward. She helped me to believe that one day I would see the light.”

Another favorite professor has been ESL Professor Lisa Currie.

“She supported me a lot in many ways,” said Meneses. “She gave me a lot of advice. I loved psychology and history. Those were my favorite classes. I feel grateful to the college.”

Meneses was able to take advantage of the TRiO program, which provides additional services for students who are first-generation college students, low income, or have a documented disability. She said TRiO helped provide her with more access to English tutors and to the classes she needed.

While at Laurel Ridge, Meneses first learned how to use a computer, and Professor Currie ensured she took a keyboarding class.

“I also started to learn all the math here because I didn’t learn a lot in my home country,” she said. “It was my beginning of everything. Laurel Ridge provided me the beginning of my learning process. I started at zero.”

Meneses still thinks back on the lessons Professor Currie and Brandy Boies, now the college’s director of public relations and special events, taught during a one-credit student development course many years ago.

“They gave us a lot of wonderful advice,” said Meneses. “They encouraged us to continue studying and to adopt the customs of the U.S. to get more knowledge, and to set goals and create schedules. That class helped me change my mindset and to create a routine and set a daily schedule.

“Their advice in that class helped me to change my attitude, to be a more efficient person. It helped me to find the tools to reach the skills that I wanted to reach.”

Professor Currie encouraged Meneses to become a U.S. citizen, which she proudly did.

“She doesn’t only give academic advice, but also social and personal advice,” said Meneses. “Her and Brandy’s direction helped me a lot. I had the blessing to have the best people at the time.”

She also praised her math tutor, Andrew J. Bailey, as well as Karen Goulbourne, who works in Financial Aid and helped her complete her FAFSA application.

“She was very patient with me,” said Meneses. “All these people played an important role at the beginning of my learning process.”

Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.