I Chose Success
A mature-age immigrant starts college 30 years late but finishes right on time
Every weekday morning Nicole Hudson, her siblings, and friends stepped into a small boat and paddled 15 minutes across a tributary of the Demerara River in Linden, northeast Guyana. When they reach the other side, they walked two miles to their school of about 500 students. In the evening, an oil lamp provided enough light for homework in the house she shared with five sisters, a brother, and their mother.
“It was in the 70s. We were poor and had no running water. I would bring fruit and vegetables, anything I could to school, to sell. I was even business-minded then,” laughed Hudson, a 2021 Queensborough Community College graduate.
Nicole Hudson bumps elbows with Queensborough Community College President Dr. Christine Mangino.
“Education was going to be my way out, and I was driven and determined. I was not going to get stuck in that mining town! My education may have been delayed, but it was not derailed,” she exclaimed, still defiant, at home in Queens.
After high school, Hudson and her best friend were accepted to colleges in American and the United Kingdom. Marcia went directly to England, but Hudson was not able to relocate at that time. Instead, she became a teaching assistant at her childhood school, working with second graders, then attended commercial school to learn typing, shorthand, and accounting. She and her husband were able to immigrate to the United States in 1996.
The 50-year-old Business Management & Marketing major once thought she could live her education dreams through her daughter, Terrilyn, a Queens College graduate and pre-med master's student. Hudson, a long-time Mary Kay Cosmetics representative, realized, however, that the time had come to put on a brave face and focus on a different purpose – herself.
“I visualized myself in a graduation gown,” she confided, breathing deeply and holding back tears.
The gown, as it turned out, was Terrilyn’s garment. Hudson chose to wear it at her own graduation.
“Terrilyn changed everything for me. Her accomplishment at Queens College relit my fire. I said ‘I can do this!’ and my daughter said ‘Yes, mom, you can do it!’ And she marched me off to Queensborough Community College and said 'Don’t worry. I got you!'”
Hudson enrolled in Spring 2019.
“They thought I was there to enroll Terrilyn, but she told them that she was there to enroll me!” Following her daughter’s advice, Hudson completed all of her assignments and made sure her Queensborough professors knew who she was.
“I failed my first math test and felt maybe it was not my time or maybe that I was too old. Terrilyn told me to get back to it. She never gave up on me,” Hudson said. Neither did Hudson’s husband, Dwayne, or her 83-year-old mother.
“I was going to be the first of her children to graduate from college. I wanted her to see that her hard work had not been in vain. She encouraged me and kept telling me that it was something I had always wanted to do.”
Hudson’s first English paper was, in her own words, a mess. Studying at the dining table was like kick-starting her brain every night. Going to campus, she recalled, was nerve-wracking, but marvelous at the same time.
“Most students were 19 and 20. I was 48. It had been 30 years. But I did not feel much older than them. Age disappeared. And every person – Black, brown, yellow, old or young – made me feel so comfortable. What’s great about Queensborough and America is that color or age does not matter. You can do anything you want to do.”
In August, Hudson starts a bachelor’s in Business at CUNY’s School of Professional Studies. One day she would like to go back to Guyana and establish a program to enable women to freely express themselves, learn, and grow. She wants them to know that the path to success is not always direct; that they may need to fight strong currents where the creek and the river meet; and that with the right people on board, supporting, pushing, and keeping you steady, they can get to the other side.
In I Chose Success, a poem Hudson submitted for a final, she wrote: Killing my nightmares, I chose to triumph and rejoice over existence and poverty... Will you?
Contact: Michael Donahue or Alice Doyle