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Iris Cotto

Youth Librarian| Worcester Public Library

In 1981 when Iris Cotto enrolled at Quinsigamond Community College, she had no idea what she wanted to study. The coincidental creation of an applied arts program at the time of her enrollment set her on a clear course, leading to professional advancement and personal fulfillment.

At the age of five, she and her siblings moved from her native Puerto Rico to the United States and six years later settled in Worcester, where she has lived ever since. From the time she was a young girl, she worked a variety of jobs and at 18 landed at the library. A library administrator took Cotto under her wings and urged her to pursue a degree. With support from the library, her husband, two children and extended family, she reluctantly tested the academic waters. "Quinsigamond is where it all began for me," she said. "When I went into the classroom, my eyes opened up and I realized that I could do this. I started to become actively thirsty to be in the know."

When QCC launched its applied arts and illustration program, Iris, who had a lifelong penchant for arts and photography, signed up immediately. Under the guidance of Professor George Fitch, she excelled and earned her associate degree in graphic design. She also credits John Soloperto for his moral and academic support. "He was like a big brother to me," she said.

Citing QCC as a "gateway," she said, "Quinsigamond became a step-ping stone for me. I was the first in my family to graduate from college. That was huge for me. QCC is a welcoming, inviting place. It’s ideal for so many adults who are working, but also want to go back to school."