Say you turn on television and you’re watching a show about the FBI. (Choose one. There are 171,000,000, according to Google.) And say you have a bachelor’s in digital forensics but you had to take a job in an unrelated field that allowed you to work from home to care for your son during COVID, and the pandemic was over, so you said to yourself, “I want to apply my degree. Why don’t I see if the FBI is hiring?” 

So you do, and they are, and after a really thorough background check, you get the job.  

You’d be Jaritza Ortiz, FBI Support Specialist.  

And Mom. That’s what Jaritza can talk about, wants to talk about. “To me, family is the most important thing. It’s everything,” she says as she describes a typical weekend for her blended family, consisting of her son, her fiancé and his son, and their brand-new baby girl. “We love to bake cakes! And take the kids to parks and museums, go to pop-up events, visit my parents, my in-laws, maybe go out to eat.”  

Hit rewind. It’s 2014, Jaritza’s last semester at Guttman, studying Human Services. She finds out she’s pregnant. She feels fine and finishes her classes in December. In June, with her infant in tow, she stops by Guttman to pick up her diploma and say hello to everyone. By August, she’s transferred her Guttman credits and enrolled in an online program with DeVry University to pursue a career in law enforcement. 

“I figured online was the only way I could do it, with the baby. I had to work, of course, too. My mother helped out a lot. I’m so thankful for her,” the now 30-year-old says. Predictably, it wasn’t easy. Jaritza recalls “doing homework during every one of my lunch breaks at work and jumping out of bed in the middle of the night because I remembered I had to log in for a quiz.”  

She found the curriculum challenging, and even though she was motivated (“driven,” as she characterizes herself), it was easy to slack off. “With online classes, I really missed the in-person support I was used to at Guttman, my advisor and mentors. I missed the feeling of everybody getting along, working in groups, going to places in the city to learn.” The hardest thing about online education, she says, was communicating with her instructors when she was falling behind. “If I was struggling, I had to reach out to my professors, and they didn’t always get back to me when I needed it. In order to succeed, I had to explain my situation to them and keep the communication going.”  

It took her three and a half years, but Jaritza kept going, earning her B.S. degree, working a variety of jobs and raising her son. She talks about continuing for her master’s, but, despite her good job and her fiancé’s, she balks at taking on more debt. “It’s crazy,” she says, “I listen to all the discussion about cancelling school loan debt, but the deferment during COVID is over and my payments started up again. It’s expensive to live in NYC, and it really stresses me out.” Working for the federal government, she’s eligible for loan forgiveness—yet only after she makes 120 payments. “I want to further my education and move ahead in my career for my family, but I just can’t see adding more debt to what I already owe.”  

For now, she’s glad to make the daily commute between Brooklyn and Manhattan for a job she can’t talk about, while she dreams of a house outside of the city for her family, near a park and perhaps a museum or two.