Paralegal studies student celebrates hard-earned degree
When Nikoleta Kalahanis came to the United States from Greece, she was determined to earn a degree.
After the Greek financial crisis in the mid-2000s, Kalahanis moved to the U.S. with her husband and 5-year-old son to make a fresh start.
The family initially moved to Stroudsburg, and Kalahanis got a job working at a local church. After five years of putting together bulletins and newsletters, along with other computer-intensive work, she was comfortable enough to start taking classes.
“When we moved to the U.S., that was my dream,” Kalahanis says. “I needed to educate myself. I didn’t want to be a housewife all my life. That wasn’t me.”
She began taking classes at a local college in 2009 but hadn’t yet decided what major she wanted to pursue. Then, she and her husband had a second son, and she put her career on pause to care for her newborn.
She did return to work and classes after about a year but had to put things on hold once more. The family moved to Center Valley and Kalahanis again returned to work, getting a position with a law firm that was handling international matters such as divorces, custody issues and inheritances.
“They needed a bilingual person, and I was the perfect fit,” Kalahanis said.
She began working as a receptionist but was promoted to legal secretary, then started doing paralegal work.
“I loved it. That convinced me to continue as a paralegal. It was my thing. I found my road, my purpose.”
Kalahanis decided to pursue a degree in the Paralegal Studies AAS degree program – ABA approved at Lehigh Carbon Community College.
“LCCC is like a home. It feels like it’s my family,” Kalahanis said. “I could email my professors anytime, and I received a response right away. The whole system at LCCC helped me so much.”
The class that stands out for her is PLG 200: Civil Litigation and Procedures, taught by Diane Tallarita, professor and coordinator of paralegal studies at LCCC.
“She told us, ‘The paralegal profession is all about meeting deadlines. If you cannot meet the deadlines, and if you are not able to give me your homework in time, this profession is not for you.’”
Kalahanis said the the class was fast-paced, like working in a law firm, but she thrives in that kind of environment.
“She was determined to be successful,” Tallarita says. “She always asked insightful questions and was always striving to be better. She always wanted to learn more and was not satisfied until she completely understood the materials.”
Kalahanis, now 41, completed her degree in May 2017, and was selected as one of two student speakers for LCCC’s commencement ceremonies. She plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree in business administration at Lehigh University, where she now works.
While preparing for commencement ceremonies on May 18, Kalahanis offered encouragement to other adult students who might feel overwhelmed at the prospect of going back to school.
“They should never put their dream on the side – never. If I can make it, everybody can. I never considered myself especially smart or special. But, I never give up.”