A CUNY Story About Soul-Searching, Calling, and True Love: Alumna Shaitasia Holley, ‘16



December 19, 2022 | Alumni, Alumni Achievement, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging, Global Guttman, Publication, Student Achievement

Have you ever started a conversation with the familiar “What do you do?” and found, a few minutes in, that you’ve somehow been pulled toward the more profound question of “Who are you becoming?” Talk with Shaitasia “Shai” Holley, and that’s where she gently steers the first five minutes of your dialogue. It’s not surprising, though. She asks that question every day, albeit in different words, to her students at CUNY’s Lehman College Adult Learning Center. “I get to support students working on getting their G.E.D. It’s beautiful,” she says of her job. She is an Educational Advisor, a title she prefers to ‘Case Manager’ as her position is classified. “People aren’t cases. When I save students’ numbers on my phone, I’m not saving ‘cases.’”

Majoring in Human Services at Guttman, Shai studied criminology and sociology at CUNY’s John Jay College, graduating in 2018. “I went in, thinking I was going to be a homicide detective. But these years, seeing too many people who look like me, on the other side of that…Let’s say, it made me do a lot of soul-searching. I realized that what I really want is to see people move forward in their lives, and reach their goals.”

“And,” she adds, “I really wanted to do that with CUNY.” CUNY means a great deal to Shai. Her older sister is a CUNY grad, and so is her partner, Eddy Vittini. In fact, she and Eddy completed Guttman’s Summer Bridge and graduated together. “We like to say we met through ePortfolio,” she jokes. Eddy went on to study Computer Science at Lehman and is employed as a software engineer. The couple has an apartment together in Queens.

Through both her associate degree and her bachelor, Shai worked at Guttman as a Writing Peer Mentor and as a Tutor. “Guttman gives students a lot of support. We do that in Lehman’s Adult Learning Center, too. Students need it. You never know why someone doesn’t show up for class; their grandchild’s sick, they have to work overtime, can’t get out of bed; they’re depressed. They will never get kicked out of this program. Not if it takes them 5 years, if it takes them 10 years. We’re here for them, as long as it takes.”

She pauses, thoughtfully. “Do you know how brave it is, to ask for help? There’s a vulnerability in that. But there’s also self-advocacy. My mother taught me, ‘never stop learning, never give up’ and I pass that advice along to my students. I can say I’ve found my calling.”