“I was the only one in my family who didn’t graduate from college,” said Laurie Ansiono. “I couldn’t let that happen.”
But it was a long road to that diploma, which the 53-year-old grandmother from Wakefield recently received from North Shore Community College.
“As a young person, I had difficulty reading,” Ansiono said. “The letters got scrambled and the same thing happened with math. Going to school was not a pleasant experience.”
She believes she has dyslexia, but was never diagnosed.
“Back in the day, they just thought you were an average student,” she said. “They didn’t have the resources that are available today.”
At Peabody Veterans Memorial High School, she entered the business program and studied accounting, graduating in 1981.
Ansiono said she didn’t consider college because “I never thought I could do it.” She married at 22 and spent years raising two daughters.
In her 30s, she was introduced to mime.
“I was completely wowed with how much the body speaks and how much communication is nonverbal,” Ansiono said.
She trained in the art and continues to teach and perform.
“Suddenly in my late 40s, I thought ‘I want to go to college,’ ’’ Ansiono said. “But I was petrified and talking myself in and out of applying to school. I came up with every reason not to. I’m too old, I didn’t inherit the math gene, if I take biology who would want to be my partner, would they expect me to do homework?”
In 2013, she found North Shore’s Women in Transition program.
“You are with women in and around your age,” she said. “It’s a really safe environment.”
After the program ended, “I branched out,” Ansiono said. “I knew this was not just a nine-month thing for me. I knew I would go the distance.”
A liberal arts student, she said: “I was always asking questions if I didn’t understand something; I haunted my professors until I did.”
The tactic paid off. “I graduated with a 4.0 [grade point average] and I worked really, really hard for that.”
Ansiono is writing a book of essays “introducing older students to college life. It includes humorous situations I found myself in and practical tips.”
With an associate’s degree already in hand, she said she plans to continue her education at Salem State University in the fall.
“Both of my kids went to college before me,” Ansiono said. “One of my daughters graduated from North Shore and the other from Salem State. I am following in their footsteps.”