Jacky Lamenzo '12

"FOLLOW YOUR GUT! KNOW THAT IF YOU KEEP GOING EVEN WHEN IT'S SCARY AND UNCLEAR, IT WILL ALWAYS MAKE SENSE WHEN YOU LOOK BACK."

lamenzoJacky Lamenzo, a 2012 graduate of the College of Education, Nursing and Health professions, came to UHart to pursue a teaching career—or so she thought. A few years after graduating, Lamenzo realized she wanted to write a children's book and was able to use the skills she learned in a course that she took at UHart.

What inspired you to write a book?

I was a very picky eater until I was 23 years old. When I was given the opportunity to teach in China after I graduated from UHart, I didn't allow my fear of trying new food to hold me back. When I got there, I tried everything at the first dinner. I loved it all! My path quickly changed into figuring out how to help other adults with this fear of new foods, as well as parents of picky eaters. I knew I could help families who were having regular mealtime battles. I wanted parents to see the child's perspective when it came to this issue. Addy the Ant shines light on what the child might be feeling when they're hesitant to try new foods.

Of all the classes you took as a student, what is the one class you would recommend everyone take as a must-do, life-changing course?

My education courses were all very inspiring. I took two literacy classes, one being a children's book course, Reading & Language Arts: Children's Books, with Mira Gnap. I fondly remember being in the literacy room surrounded by windows and digging deep into children's books, how they help improve literacy, and all of the different styles and patterns in stories. Without knowing it back then, it planted a seed; five years later I took a writing class in Austin, Texas, and had my first draft of Addy Wants to Fit In.

Did you have a favorite professor or mentor who helped shape your University of Hartford experience?

Paige Bray and Peter Oliver played a huge role in my UHart experience. Professor Bray's hands-on approach to education was key. She taught me early on to advocate for children. This is something that is certainly applied when I was writing my book. Peter Oliver's energy and passion for education made class engaging and fun. I was lucky enough to get to know his wife and son well, and they were the connection that provided me the opportunity to go to Beijing. My advisor, Toko Oshio, was a fantastic mentor for me while I was juggling student teaching, classes, and making sure to get everything done before graduation and she made it fun and rewarding. I am grateful for all three of these professors, and hope they know they all contributed to this children's book, even if they didn't know it.

Many alumni choose to stay engaged with UHart after they graduate. Can you tell us what inspires you to give back and stay connected?

I want to show others that even if the path isn't what was expected, it can still come full-circle. I am not teaching as I originally expected, but I just wrote my first children's book with the knowledge I learned in my undergrad program.

What advice would you give to current students and young alumni?

Follow your gut! Know that if you keep going even when it's scary and unclear, it will always make sense when you look back.