When Verenika Lasku reflects on the time she and her husband Bobby spent raising three children in the Bronx on just his custodial salary, she doesn’t sugar coat it, noting plainly, “It was really hard.”
The two immigrated to the Belmont neighborhood from Kosovo in 1995. While her husband worked, Lasku stayed at home and raised their three children. But when their youngest entered kindergarten, she also began looking for work in custodial services. Two years later, she landed a job just a few blocks from their Arthur Avenue home, at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.
On May 21, 10 years of scrubbing, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and setting up for campus events finally paid off, as Valentina, the oldest of their children, earned a master’s from the Graduate School of Education (GSE). Valentina had already earned a bachelor’s in psychology last year from Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH), but the day was no less sweet for Verenika.
“I’m so proud of her. It’s even better with a master’s,” she said.
“[My husband and I] finished grammar school but we didn’t have the chance to do more,” she said. “It’s always been something on my mind that I want my kids to do better than I do. Even if I didn’t get this job, I would do anything to make it happen—even if I had to take out a loan.”
For Valentina, who was born in the Bronx a year after her parents moved to the United States and grew up in the shadow of the Rose Hill campus, this graduation was particularly sweet because there was little time to savor earning her bachelor’s degree last May. In September, she’ll start a job teaching third grade special education at a school in the Bronx.
“I graduated last year on a Saturday, and on Monday, I started grad school,” she said. “I spent my whole summer and this past year taking classes, so I feel like I crunched two years into one.”
“I’ve wanted to become a teacher since I was very little, so I when I heard Fordham had a graduate education school program, I knew I wanted to jump on that.”
And Valentina’s younger sister Gabriellais following in her footsteps, having completed her first year at Fordham College at Rose Hill. Lasku hopes her son Robert will follow her when he graduates from high school, too.
“I feel accomplished, knowing that I was actually able to do something and make something out of myself for myself,” Valentina said, noting that she was thankful both for her mother’s sacrifice and for fact that she got to see her on campus periodically.
“It feels good being the first one to be able to graduate and set an example.”