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Family’s First College Graduate

Corina Karabanoff earns a communication degree and finds future career by getting involved on campus

Ms. Karabanoff

During her freshman year in high school, Corina Karabanoff’s father died.

She made a promise to herself and her father’s memory that she would finish high school, enroll in a college and become the first member of her family to graduate from college.

On May 9, 2014, that promise will be fulfilled.

Karabanoff graduates with a bachelor’s degree from the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication.

“I put myself through school by working,” she said. “I felt like my education was my responsibility. I didn’t want my mom to feel the financial burden.”

To keep her college costs as low as possible, she started her post-secondary education at San Jacinto Community College with plans to major in radio broadcasting. She also got a full-time job in the banking industry to pay her tuition and fees.

In the spring 2012, she had earned enough credit hours and income to transfer to the Valenti School of Communication.

Although she enjoyed her courses, Karabanoff felt cut off from the campus community because she was a transfer student and didn’t live on campus. To become more involved on campus, she joined the UH chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America, and ultimately gained a position on the organization’s executive board.

She enjoyed being immersed in the college experience so much that she took a bigger leap of faith.
“After six years working at banks, last year I decided to quit my banking job and take a job on campus in the UH Governmental and Community Relations Office,” she said.

The pay was lower, forcing her to take loans to complete her degree. But the experience of becoming more involved on campus as she neared graduation was a tradeoff Karabanoff was willing to make.
“Corina has been a great asset to our department. She helps give us an insight into the experience of a UH student,” says Susie Molina, the UH Community Relations Director.

Her new role in the Governmental and Community Relations office led to a position in the Student Government Association.

“The student body president was in our office while I was working and he suggested I apply for the Associate Director of Community Relations position within SGA,” she said. Karabanoff got the job.

In September 2013, she began planning community service projects for the SGA, including a clean-up at Memorial Park, voter registration drives, and volunteering at a local homeless shelter.

“As a proud CLASS alum, it’s wonderful to see a younger generation go through the exact same program as I did and have great skills,” Molina said. “Corina has the passion and work ethic that will take her anywhere she wants to go. And although she’ll leave here a student, I’m confident I’ll see her again as a professional in the field.”

Karabanoff’s post-college job strategy is to build on her community relations experiences and land a job in the nonprofit sector.

Currently, she volunteers at Texas Children’s Hospital’s Radio Lollipop, the hospital’s in-house radio station that allows young patients to request songs, win prizes, and even be “on-the-air.”

“My experience at UH has allowed me to learn exactly what I want to do,” Karabanoff said. “I have a big heart and I want to have a career that serves a cause.”

- By Monica Byars