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Connecting Through Culture

Connecting Through Culture


Morristown, NJ (November 4, 2020) – Gissel Escalante never had a single place to call home. She was born in Ecuador and spent several years in Spain before immigrating to the United States. Once in the country, her family moved from state to state and town to town on multiple occasions.

While this made it difficult for Gissel to establish roots in any one place, she gained an invaluable ability to empathize with others. Living in a variety of communities, immersed in each one's distinctive culture, taught Gissel to be open minded and understanding of every person's unique life experience. She's been able to channel this innate acceptance into her work as a tennis coach and foster deep interpersonal relationships with her students.

"Whether I'm instructing someone who is 5, 18 or 80, I'm able to connect with them through listening to their specific style of communication," says Gissel, who is a member of SEU's tennis program. "Building relationships with people from all different ages teaches me so much and I take that knowledge and apply it to my life outside of the court."

Frequently moving and coaching diverse people may have expanded Gissel's worldview but her strong sense of morality originates from her mother. Having earned her bachelor's in commerce and business administration while in Ecuador, Gissel's mother wanted to earn her master's degree to improve her employment opportunities. However, she momentarily sacrificed this dream to provide her daughters with a better life.

"It's important to acknowledge how much our parents have sacrificed for our futures," explains Gissel. "They came to a country without speaking the language and built our futures out of passion and love."

To honor her family's sacrifice, Gissel has always pushed herself. She expected to earn straight As in all of her classes and, any time she felt like quitting, Gissel would think of her mother's struggle and work even harder. As a double major in criminal justice and business administration, Gissel brought her motivation to succeed to SEU.

After graduating, Gissel hopes to become a fraud investigator who helps people who have had their lives ruined by this crime.

While Gissel may have never resided in one place for too long, her sense of belonging rests in her openhearted interactions with strangers, the depth of her relationship with her mother and every bond she has formed with her students. This vast, expansive network of people have become her true home and Saint Elizabeth University is no different.

"I'm lucky to have found SEU, a place I have not only called home for the past three years, but one that will be my home forever," says Gissel. "This is the place that my future starts."