It’s not enough for Deserée Cain to gain the benefit of a master’s degree in communications and media technologies as she graduates from Rochester Institute of Technology. She plans to return to her native Belize in Central America to start a journalism and public relations course at the University of Belize.
“Journalists there currently lack training,” she said. “There is need for more formal training, especially in ethics. Most of it is trial and error.”
Her graduate thesis looks at crime and the impact it has on individuals and how it is portrayed in newspapers in the U.S. and Belize.
One of eight children from a modest background, Cain, 43, is the first in her family to obtain a college degree.
At home, she was well known as “Lady D” on the radio, where she worked for years as a news director, radio journalist and remote broadcast manager.
“I’m a people person,” she said. “I love telling stories, meeting new people and traveling.”
She took a job in public relations in 2011 for Belize’s Public Utilities Commission but resigned to pursue her master’s at RIT through a program offered by the Organization of American States, which pays her tuition in exchange for a commitment to return home to work for two years. OAS selected three college options for her to pursue, and Cain chose RIT.
Leaving her son Kyle, 21; daughter Kayla, 18; and husband Anthony Arzu nearly 2,000 miles home in Belize, she has contact with them daily via Skype and Facebook.
“I consider it another one of my challenges, but I see it as something that makes me even more determined, knowing at the end of the day I will have that support from my family,” Cain said.
Taking classes with students who were about as old as her children felt a bit awkward at first, she said. “I thought those students could have been me if I had been in that position financially. But I don’t feel inferior to anyone. I just learn from every opportunity I am given.”
While at RIT, Cain served as a student ambassador and “had the humble opportunity to work with some inspirational people from the Career Services Department,” she said.
She was selected to serve as delegate and convocation speaker for the graduate class for the College of Liberal Arts this year.
Although not the typical RIT student, Cain has excelled in her classes—with an 3.83 GPA—which she attributes to help from her professors.
And she doesn’t view obstacles, such as poverty or distance, from stopping her from achieving her goals.
“I see each and every obstacle as an opportunity to be stronger, to grow into what I am made of,” she said. “I am a leader, and because I want it bad enough, the brick walls will never stop me.”