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Alva Nurys Cedeno


Alva Centeno - 180   

Even though she could have graduated by now, Alva says MassBay has been worth the wait.  “Students are walking around, talking about classes – they’re motivated.  It’s a great environment here.”


Age: 23
Hometown: Malden, MA
Major: Business Administration

Alva Cedeño began her higher education odyssey at Eastern Connecticut State University in the fall of 2007.  Six years, two states, and two other community colleges later, Alva first set foot on the MassBay campus and said to herself, “I’m home.  I know this is where I am supposed to be.”

Growing up in Hartford, Connecticut with 16 brothers and sisters, 11 of whom were adopted, Alva is determined to be the first in her family to earn a college degree.  It hasn’t been an easy journey.

Alva left Eastern Connecticut State before the start of the second semester and moved to Boston. Sleeping in an Emmanuel College dorm, Alva set out to start over. She landed a job at Legal Sea Foods in the Prudential in just 3 days and found an apartment in Chelsea. She enrolled at Bunker Hill in January 2009 but soon realized it wasn't a good fit for her.

She transferred to Roxbury Community College, staying for three semesters in their Business Administration Associate Degree program and also studying Arabic (“Once you learn the alphabet you can read anything,” Alva says, “But you won’t understand what you’re saying.”).  But she ran into academic trouble at Roxbury in what she thought was a required pre-calculus course.  Studying six hours a day and seeking out extra help, Alva entered the final exam with a hard-earned B in the course.  But at the exam, “I froze.”  She found herself unable to answer a single question on the exam, failed it, and came away with a D in the course.  She later found out that neither pre-calculus nor calculus was required for her major.  She wanted to transfer to a four-year school, but her 2.3 GPA wasn’t good enough.

“It was very frustrating for me, because I knew I wasn’t a 2.3 student,” she says.  “I was upset, angry, and very disappointed.”

She felt that she didn’t belong at Roxbury, so she googled Massachusetts community colleges and found MassBay.  “I didn’t know where Wellesley was,” she says, “But I came in a week before classes, went to the Registrar’s Office, and signed up.”  She hasn’t looked back.

Even though she could have graduated by now, Alva says MassBay has been worth the wait.  “Students are walking around, talking about classes – they’re motivated.  It’s a great environment here.”

Alva has thrived academically at MassBay.  “I called my mom after my first semester and said ‘Mom, I did it!  I got a 4.0!”  In her first semester Alva landed an internship as an Online Marketing Intern for the owner of Natick's Ben & Jerry's. She met the owner during a presentation in her marketing class. And midway through her second semester Alva remains on track for another perfect GPA.

She has also moved up the ranks at Legal’s, from hostess to food runner to her current position as a trainer and shift leader.  “I want to own a restaurant, so I am absorbing as much as I can at Legal’s.  It’s a family owned business and the best model of success anywhere.”

Food is in her blood, she says.  “My grandma cooked and cleaned houses in Venezuela until she finally saved enough money to buy a restaurant.  My mom ran her own catering business too.  I want to start a Spanish seafood restaurant.”

“We’ve always cooked,” Alva continues, “It‘s a talent my family has.  I want to turn that, and my passion for business into a legacy for my family.”

To get to MassBay, Alva takes the bus to the Malden Center station on the orange line.  At North Station she takes the green line to Government Center, transfers to the D line and takes it all the way to the terminal stop at Riverside, and then catches the MassBay shuttle to the Wellesley Hills campus.  It’s almost two hours each way, “And the trolleys sway so much I usually wind up with an upset stomach.”

But Alva is as determined as ever to earn her associate degree and ultimately transfer to Northeastern’s College of Professional Studies for a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business.  “I want to continue studying languages along with business – the program is a mix of everything I love,” she says with a big smile.  MassBay has an articulation agreement with Northeastern, which ensures all of her relevant credits she earns at MassBay will transfer toward her bachelor’s degree. 

In addition to her determination to earning a degree, Alva is determined to make a difference on the MassBay campus.  Alva drew inspiration from the re-election of President Obama in the fall of 2012 and from a series of assignments in Professor Palumbo’s Critical Thinking class where the class analyzed the debates between U.S. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown.  One day during the semester Alva was sitting in the MassBay cafeteria when she observed someone who was going table to table encouraging people to register to vote.  She recalled how she cried after missing her opportunity to vote in her first election in the 2008 presidential election because she was improperly registered.  And then she overheard a comment from someone in the table next to hers, who said he wasn’t going to vote because it didn’t matter to him.

She reacted strongly to that sentiment, speaking passionately about the importance of exercising one’s right to vote, and she wound up helping the person register people in the cafeteria to vote that day.  “We registered 117 people to vote that day,” she recalls proudly. 

That experience led to her involvement in the statewide organization MASSPIRG, which advocates for consumer rights and the public interest.  She has already met with President O’Donnell and presented to his Cabinet a plan for a Zero Waste campaign, an initiative that would enhance the College’s recycling efforts.  “I believe MassBay can be a leader for other campuses to follow,” she says.  “The school is committed to doing more with recycling, and I believe our zero waste campaign will make MassBay more attractive for current, future and former students as well.”

Alva is also passionate about her involvement in the effort to block the XL Keystone pipeline, a proposal to build an oil pipeline that would carry 800,000 barrels a day from Canada to Texas.  Through MASSPIRG, she was invited to the National Student Forum, a conference for Student PIRG leaders across the nation held in Washington DC.  There, Alva attended a rally on the issue, joining nearly 50,000 people in front of the White House – “one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done,” she says.  “It was exhilarating.”

In addition to her four on-campus classes, one online, MASSPIRG work, and Legal’s, Alva is working one day a week as an intern at Ben & Jerry’s on Route 9 in Natick helping its owner, Steven Marcus, enhance his online presence.  “Some of what I wrote is actually part of his Google content,” she beams.  She credits professor Duchainey’s marketing class for this opportunity, since Mr. Marcus was a guest of the class one day.

Being a role model for her siblings is also a big part of her life.  “They look up to me,” she says, “I love it.  I want to set the best example I can for them.  But my phone is never on silent – they’re always calling!”

Alva Cedeño is working on her second straight 4.0 semester while pursuing her Associate Degree in Business Administration.  She intends to transfer to Northeastern and open her own Spanish seafood restaurant.