Diocesan News

Single Mom Graduates as St. Francis Valedictorian After Juggling School and Jobs

By Emily Drooby

BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Alexa Rutkowska almost didn’t go to college. Now, she’s at the top of her class, graduating as one of two valedictorians at St. Francis College.

Rutkowska achieved her academic accolades while also successfully handling her most important job: being a single mother to her young daughter.

“It was definitely a bit of a struggle,” she told Currents News.

“I was waking up at five o’clock in the morning, going to work for 6 a.m., I was a barista,” Rutkowska explained. “Then I would shoot right over to school. I had class and participated in extracurriculars. It was a lot.”

In addition to her full-time barista job, the Brooklyn native was a tutor, had an internship, and worked as a teaching and research assistant.

She did all of this while still taking care of her daughter.

“I had 16-hour days and at the end of the day, I would have to come home and take care of my daughter So, it was a lot,” Rutkowska recalls.

She didn’t just persevere, she excelled and maintained a 4.0-grade average. Now, she is graduating with a master’s degree in psychology.

“I just have to dedicate it all to hard work and perseverance and not letting anything get in my way,” she said. “Even though I would have to not sleep some nights, I would put those extra hours in and just apply myself really hard … put the best of my abilities in.”

Rutkowska is Catholic, and calls St. Francis Xavier in Park Slope, Brooklyn, her home parish.

She says getting this top honor took a lot of persistence, organization, and really good planning but nothing could stop her. She says anyone can achieve their dreams.

Her advice: “Avoid the naysayers, because there’s going to be people telling you that you can’t do it and it’s too much, but with the right support, perseverance, and tenacity, you will be able to accomplish anything. I mean, look at this.”

Up next for Rutkowska? She’s applying for doctorate work in clinical psychology and hopes to one day work in private practice.