Major: Child and Family Studies

Class of 2022

Hometown: Montville

Helping Others Succeed Is My Dream

 “Every professor I had at CCM was not only a wonderful professor, but also a very committed, kind, understanding, and helpful individual, who genuinely wants every single student to truly succeed.” After being raised in a traditional Pakistani environment, marrying at age 20 and raising three children, Gulnaz Saeed got to work on some personal goals as a student at County College of Morris (CCM), becoming an early childhood education teacher, personal advocate and humanitarian.  Throughout her childhood Saeed was instructed by her father, the best path in life is to get a good education, good husband, have children and raise them while staying at home. In Pakistan, she recalls, “He sent me to an English school so I could one day help my children with their homework.”  Saeed is proud to have accomplished that goal from a different viewpoint than anticipated. “As my children grew, I went to their schools and loved the system in the USA. I saw diverse cultures, values, traditions and an amazing educational system,” she says.  “As I volunteered at my children’s school, I not only helped my kids learn, but I also learned a lot myself.”

Saeed began teaching part-time at The Sunday School, a small, nonprofit affiliated with her mosque. She completed her training to earn the Child Development Associate (CDA) qualification. This is the first step toward a child-related career such as a substitute teacher, paraprofessional or preschool teacher in a daycare center. With this new credential Saeed’s confidence soared. Several years later, her daughter was working at a birthday party venue for young children.

Coincidentally she met Dr. Melissa Kasmin, assistant professor of Psychology and Education and Faculty Special Projects Coordinator for the Early Childhood Education Program at CCM. “My daughter came home and insisted for me to meet with Dr. Kasmin.” “Dr. Kasmin explained the associate’s degree program in child and family studies and the requirements for the courses,” says Saeed. “It was a challenge for me to go back to school, but I took her summer class and loved every moment of it. I was in awe.” With the monetary earnings from The Sunday School, Saeed could now also afford to pay for the 60-credit degree program.  “My children supported me and stood by me in my educational journey. Dr. Kasmin not only helped me get started, but also encouraged, scaffold, facilitated, and guided me to succeed in graduating,” recalls Saeed. “The business card Dr. Kasmin gave to my daughter became a very lucky card for me.”

At CCM Saeed gained a high GPA, was named to the Dean’s List, and became a member of the Phi Kappa Theta Honor Society. “Every professor I had at CCM was not only a wonderful professor, but also a very committed, kind, understanding and helpful individual, who genuinely wants every single student to truly succeed.” According to Kasmin, “Gulnaz started with one course at a time and will now be graduating with two certificates and an associate’s degree from the Early Childhood Education department. With her determination and hope, and with the support of CCM resources, she was able to overcome obstacles and achieve her dreams. She is a testament to others that by taking one step at a time you can walk far!”

Throughout her educational journey, Saeed simultaneously transformed her mosque’s center into an innovative teaching and learning environment. She also formed a professional group, Teachers Co-Lab, to enable her colleagues to collaborate creative strategies and solve problems within their nonprofit budget. Recently, she led the team to complete training through the New Jersey Workforce Registry and Grow NJ Kids earning grants up to $6,000. The Sunday School also earned The Creative Curriculum by Teaching Strategies designation, aligning the center’s standards with those found at upscale, well-funded daycare centers. Saeed says she advocates for every child who enters the center and encourages each team member to reach for their goals.  “I started my academic career to be a teacher, but today I am much more than just a teacher. I am an advocate for each student at our center, I support each of my teammates to pursue their dreams, I point others to the path that leads to success; therefore, I am a leader,” says Saeed with confidence. “This is the only beginning of my journey to help and lead others who need guidance and help to achieve their dreams. I am very thankful to all my professors, all the staff members and admins at CCM.”