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Bridges to Success

Maritza Angeles-Gonzalez '19

Although SUNY Potsdam is a six-hour drive from her home in Mamaroneck, N.Y., the decision to attend was an easy one for Maritza Angeles-Gonzalez ’19.

After visiting campus as a junior in high school, she was sold. “It felt like home. It just felt right,” she said.

As the first in her family to attend university, Angeles-Gonzalez was thrilled to be accepted into her first-choice college.  She is grateful to the staff in the first-year Bridges Program for their care and concern for her, seeing her potential and making sure that she succeeded at SUNY Potsdam.

“It meant a lot to me that they noticed my work,” she said.  Although she now has other academic advisers, Angeles-Gonzalez is still close to Donnita Firnstein, the Bridges programming coordinator, and Timothy Morse, director for academic advising and support, who both provided her with a lot of guidance as she was acclimating to life at SUNY Potsdam.

The Bridges Program is designed to provide admission to students who fall slightly below the published academic standards for regular admission, but who demonstrate the potential for success. For the first two semesters at SUNY Potsdam, students in the Bridges Program have the benefit of counseling assistance, course scheduling, tutoring assistance and group meetings. Started in 1998, the program has assisted 1,727 since its inception and continues to be a source of support for incoming students.

After completing the Bridges Program, Angeles-Gonzalez herself served as a mentor for first-year students, advising them as they registered for classes and providing them with insight into course offerings. “The least I could do is give back, so that other students could be as successful as I’ve been,” she said.

Angeles-Gonzalez went on to declare two majors, in psychology and Spanish, as well as a minor in human services. As part of her coursework in psychology, she has been working with Dr. Claire Starrs in the SUNY Stress & Coping Lab where she is examining coping strategies and depression in a sample of women diagnosed with breast cancer, using a pioneering technique for identifying in situ coping from clinical interviews.

"My work with Dr. Starrs has opened the opportunity to work with her on creating my research proposal for my psychology honors seminar. My research is focusing on attempting to identify a link between emotional language, acculturation and neuroticism in Latinos raised in the U.S. versus Latinos who recently emigrated to the U.S. Being bilingual myself, I’ve always wondered about what factors might affect the differences in emotion processes to those who are monolingual," she said.

Angeles-Gonzalez has conducted other research as an undergraduate student such as a study on the effects of music preference and personality in her research methods class. "The combination of internships and classwork within the field of psychology has really created a solid foundation for my education and I look forward to seeing where my work leads to in the future. I'll never forget the support from the faculty in the psychology department,” she said.  

She has started to look at graduate schools and plans to eventually pursue a doctorate, perhaps in clinical psychology.  She would like to have her own practice someday, following in the footsteps of her mentor, Gladys Perez-DiVito, whom she worked with in high school as part of “Her Honor,” a women’s leadership program.

Angeles-Gonzalez is the recipient of several scholarships, including the Student Success Award, the SGA Shane T. Shaul Memorial Scholarship, the Friends of Potsdam Scholarship and the SUNY Potsdam Housing Scholarship.  She is grateful for the financial assistance and the recognition of her hard work in class. She is very involved with the Spanish Club, Emerging Leaders and was recently accepted into the peer-counseling internship in the College’s Counseling Center.

Now finishing up her junior year, she said that she’s met a lot of different people from different backgrounds and she’s found SUNY Potsdam to be very supportive, especially at locations like the Center for Diversity. “You feel the support no matter where you go…I’m just really grateful for that,” she said.

For more information about the Bridges Program, visit

"You feel the support no matter where you go…I’m just really grateful for that.” - Maritza Angeles-Gonzalez ’19