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Life lessons and education guided grad to her career calling

Nadege (Pierre) Borgat earned her bachelor’s degree while raising son Malik. She started her master’s degree when she was eight months pregnant. Son Ethan arrived during her second month in the program. Daughter Zoey was born the day before her final class for her master’s.

Borgat (’12, Marketing) believes juggling motherhood with academics helps her connect with the clients she serves as executive director at The New Beginnings of SWFL Inc., a faith-based nonprofit residential program for young, financially struggling single mothers. Among the organization’s requirements: Residents must pursue a degree or certification while living at the Cape Coral-based complex.

Started by Bill and Mary Masters, who own it, serve on the board and live on site, The New Beginnings has helped about 40 women since opening in 2011. Referrals come from programs such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or Salvation Army. Women ages 18 and older live rent-free in two-bedroom apartments for two or four years. A common area with family style dining, a playroom and courtyard helps women connect with each other. Volunteer counselors and other professionals assist. All residents attend the same church, learn life skills and work on higher education. Accountability is essential. Expectations from the Masters and Borgat are clear.

“It’s a hand up, not a hand out,” says Borgat, who lives with husband and FGCU alum, Don (’14, Accounting), nearby but spends hours at The New Beginnings as its only paid employee. “These women were all homeless or about to be homeless; they can live here with up to three kids or be pregnant with their first.”

Besides maintaining a smooth operation, her main goal is raising awareness about the program and raising funds to keep it going. (Its annual budget is about $250,000 – all from donations; no government funds.) Borgat says that’s why she’s grateful for her FGCU marketing classes.

“Running a not-for-profit is nothing but relationship management, and that’s what marketing is – building relationships. So I can build my network that will turn into dollars for the organization I’m passionate about,” she says. “The College of Business and my marketing professors really challenged me to perform at my level of excellence.”

There was a time Borgat didn’t even think about excellence. The Haitian native, now 28, moved to Miami at age 4 and Lee County at age 8. She became a lonely, pregnant, homeless high school dropout. In 2007, she was referred to a program for pregnant teens at which the Masterses volunteered. The couple connected with Borgat. “They asked me to stay with them.”

At the time, the Masterses had no plans to open a residential program. But as they helped Borgat achieve her G.E.D, learn to be a parent to Malik and move on toward her B.A., they decided to create The New Beginnings.

Borgat calls them mom and dad. Together they now help other women become successful parents. “I’ve been where they are; I can relate to them.”

She can also inspire them. Having earned her MBA through Nova Southeastern University, Borgat is now considering pursuing a doctoral degree in marketing.