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Erin Rafter 
After losing her father to colon cancer when she was just 12, Erin Rafter realized what she wanted to do when she grew up. She wanted to help children dealing with the same painful loss of a loved one.

Today, Rafter is a clinical psychologist at The Gathering Place, a nonprofit agency that provides free programs and services to people touched by cancer. 
When she was a sophomore at North Olmsted High School, Rafter discovered a shorter path to her ultimate goal through a program at the Western Campus of Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®). The Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program (PSEOP) allows students to earn college credit while they are still in high school. Rafter’s mom, a Tri-C employee, told her about the PSEOP, and soon mother and daughter were driving to the Parma campus together.

The jump from high school to college courses was a steep one, but Rafter, a good student, made the necessary adjustments and did well. “There were some big challenges in workload and depth of assignments,” recalled Rafter. “The teachers were very helpful and encouraging. I blended in very well.”

In June 1998, Rafter earned two diplomas – one from North Olmsted High School and an Associate of Arts degree from Tri-C. “I really have to give a lot of credit to the counselors at both Tri-C and North Olmsted,” said Rafter. “They really helped in selecting classes that would allow me to earn both diplomas.”

Rafter continued her connection to Tri-C by working for the College part time while she attended Baldwin Wallace University, which accepted all of her Tri-C credits. The opportunity for internships and some extra classes led Rafter to extend her time at BW by one year, and she graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology in 2001.

After studying in a five-year doctoral program in clinical psychology, Rafter earned her doctorate from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2006. She worked in Canton for seven years counseling children and adolescents at a community mental health center before joining The Gathering Place in Westlake.

The Gathering Place opened in Beachwood in 2000 while Rafter was a student at BW, and she completed an internship there. Now she works full time at the Westlake location, which opened in 2008, counseling individuals and groups.

“I am a Tri-C lifer,” said Rafter. “As a little kid, I went there for summer camp then for school. Literally, I grew up there. I met my husband there while we were both students. We have been together for 15 years and married for the last six. My future really did begin at Tri-C. It is a great place and I am very thankful for all it has done for me.”

Rafter and her husband are expecting their first child in April. Perhaps the Tri-C connection will extend to the next generation.

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