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Transferring to Bloomfield College in Fall 2022 brought the vital connections that Lataiva Balmer ’25 needed to feel at home on her college campus. Like a number of college students who began their post-secondary education at the onset of the pandemic during the national move to online learning, Lataiva struggled with the social aspects that typically accompany college life such as meeting new people and making lifetime friends.
“I found it difficult to get my footing early on in college. I joined several student organizations, yet the connection just wasn’t there for me,” said Balmer. “I wasn’t sure who I was nor what I ultimately wanted to do for a career. I had also been diagnosed with social anxiety earlier in my life, and this created additional challenges for me during a time when social interactions were modified with new rules and expectations.”
After a year away at school in Pennsylvania, Balmer said she began to question whether college was for her. She struggled with depression and, with mom’s approval, decided to take a break from her studies for the following year. She returned home to Paterson, New Jersey and worked two jobs to continue to save money to put toward her goals—for when she would settle on what those goals might be.
“My grandmother, my mom and aunt were all teachers, and early in my life I expected that I would become a teacher as well. I worked as a dance instructor for a while and learned that I didn’t enjoy working with children as much as they did. I needed to find my own path, and I needed to discover myself in order to move forward,” she said.
After a soul-searching tropical vacation and finding herself unemployed for a while, Balmer’s reading material prompted her thinking through where she wanted her life to go. “I read an article that got me very interested in why people do what they do, and I realized that college could in fact be for me,” said Balmer. “I honed in on psychology as an undergraduate major to be followed by pursuing a law degree as my life’s plan. I could see myself in the role of identifying what a lawyer would need to defend a client, as well as what a prosecutor might need to make their case.”
Balmer excitedly applied for admission and was accepted into a number of universities as a transfer student, including a number of Ivy League schools. “The only one I wasn’t accepted into was Howard due to a required math course, so I decided to take that course during the summer while at home. I took it at close by Bloomfield College, and that is how I got my introduction to this school that I love,” said Balmer.
“The professors were wonderful, the class size small and I immediately felt at home. As fall approached, I continued my journey at Bloomfield and registered for four courses covering writing, math, educational psychology and photography for fall of 2022. I also found my way to the Fostering Student Success program, and its director led me to where I needed to be. She took me over to CSLE, and I fell in love over and over again. The support I’ve received helped me set my goals such as getting on the dean’s list, becoming social, joining clubs and getting involved more.”
Balmer is well on her way to meeting her newly established goals. “I was thrilled to learn I could start my own modeling club. I also joined the Live Poet’s Society and contribute to women empowerment discussions in Queens Group. With the support of Personal Counseling, last fall I kicked off a new What’s Up with Mental Health podcast with the goal of helping fellow students. I had some 60 mental health topics ready to go right away, and we have been streaming and having guest speakers. Soon we are opening the podcast up to a waiting list of other students and faculty members who want to contribute,” said Balmer.
“I have felt fully embraced at Bloomfield, and feel grateful for all the faculty and staff who are here to help me forge my journey,” she said. “I am learning while having fun, and feel very comfortable at my new college. I am proud of myself for having established my goals. Enhancing my interactions with others is boosting my confidence and broadening my outlook on life.”
As a member of the College’s Mentorship Program, Balmer is enjoying a dual role as a mentee and a Peer Mentor for another student. “For the first time, I feel confident about what I am planning for myself. For summer, I am applying to internships in law, will take a course and will be studying for the LSATs while also working toward a Princeton University partnership participation,” she said
For Balmer, Bloomfield College’s close-knit, supportive community has made a transformative impact and she has set her sights on both new and earlier life goals. “I feel like a goal I’ve had for much of my life will be coming true. I have always wanted to travel the world, and I’ve set a goal to visit three different countries before I’m 30. I am so inspired at Bloomfield, I am confident about reaching this and many more of my goals,” said Balmer.