Single mother takes control by pursuing degree at Rider's College of Continuing Studies

After a personal rough patch, Asia Panzino '17 will graduate with a 4.0 GPA
Thomas Regan '17

The pursuit of a college degree at Rider University’s College of Continuing Studies helped change the direction of a single mother’s life.

Asia Panzino, a psychology major who plans to graduate in December 2017, dropped out of high school in 1998. Nearly 20 years later, she has secured 10 scholarships to support her college career. On April 6, she will speak alongside Professor of English Dr. Mary Morse at a scholarship writing workshop as part of the Present Yourself Series.

Before returning to school, Panzino had suffered through a rough patch in her life that lasted several years. “I very much believed myself to be worthless, someone who would never accomplish much in my lifetime, and I thought the only attention I’d ever receive would be out of pity for all of my downfalls,” she says.

Then, in 2013, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and P.T.S.D., she says, and it was that year that she decided to go back to school and work toward her GED. “Within a month I was taking my GED," she says. "It was one of the first things in my life that I invested myself in completely and when I passed, I passed in the 98th percentile.”

After receiving her GED, she enrolled at Bucks County Community College, where she began to notice her strength as a writer and storyteller.

“A professor [at BCCC] recognized my talent within my writing and recommended me to the school to share my story at scholarship events after receiving my first scholarship, a 'Salute to Mothers' award of $1,000,” Panzino says.

In 2014, Panzino graduated from BCCC with her associate’s degree as a Phi Theta Kappa member with a perfect 4.0 GPA. She was set up with full-tuition scholarships to enroll in any of 14 Pennsylvania State Colleges, but circumstances, such as the lack of night classes, made it difficult for her to travel the distances to those colleges.

And then her grandmother became sick.

“At the time, I was caring for my grandmother who was ill with aortic stenosis and other health conditions,” Panzino says. “Because I grew up with an alcoholic father and a completely absent mother, I felt a great passion to care for my 'gram.'"

The University's proximity to her grandmother made it an easy decision for Panzino to enroll at Rider. As a college student, Panzino has secured multiple awards totaling nearly $100,000, including her three-year transfer scholarship from Rider, largely because of her writing and storytelling abilities.

“Participating in the scholarship workshop is only a small token of gratitude and a way for me to pay it forward to others,” she says. “I hope to encourage others to believe in themselves and to remind them that the world isn’t so cold after all. My motto is to ‘empower the underdog.’ People in need of scholarships are often in a position to be lifted up.”

Giving back is in line with her career goals, as Panzino said she hopes to use her psychology degree to help women who were in situations similar to the one she was able to pull herself out of.

“I would love to help people realize that we have more control over our lives then we allow ourselves to believe,” she says. “I hope to work with women during crisis and times of distress, helping them to make safe and healthy decisions.”