News icon ​‛Knowing how much both of my parents sacrificed for me lit a fire in me’

In December 2022, Mitchell Scholar Patrick Luizzo accomplished what his parents were unable to do at Northeastern University

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds

A photo of Mitchell Scholar Patrick Luizzo overlooking San Francisco Bay

For many Mitchell Scholars, one of the greatest celebrations of the holiday season is graduation.

That’s how it was for Patrick Luizzo, the 2018 Scholar from Edward Little High School — and his parents, Joanne and Patrick Sr.

In early December 2022, Luizzo completed a bachelor’s in Business Administration at Northeastern University with concentrations in Entrepreneurship and Innovation as well as Marketing Analytics.

As any Mitchell Scholar alum will tell you, graduation is a major accomplishment all by itself. But for Luizzo and his parents, his achievement has special significance — he did what they were unable to do at Northeastern. Joanne and Patrick Sr. had to withdraw from the school in their senior year, when they learned Joanne was pregnant with Luizzo.

“They weren’t able to financially support themselves and a child and continue with college,” Luizzo said. “I was a teenager when I learned that story, and Northeastern was already at the top of my list. Knowing how much both of my parents sacrificed for me lit a fire in me. It instilled within me this drive to graduate and succeed.”

Ask Luizzo about his experience at Northeastern (including co-ops as a Data Analyst at Wayfair and later a Sales Operations Analyst at Enel X) and his new job (Business Development Associate at Mirah, a measurement-based care software platform used by behavioral health care providers) and he’ll share modest details about his successes.

Ask him about his parents, and he speaks passionately about their backstories.

Patrick Sr., he said, “was an immigrant from Jamaica and adopted as a child by a couple in San Francisco in the ’80s.”

Joanne came from Maine’s Aroostook County, grew up in Androscoggin County, and “left a difficult home life” at 15.

Both, said Luizzo, were “on their own” at an early age before they matriculated at Northeastern, where Joanne pursued a degree in English and Patrick Sr. majored in Marketing. They met during a co-op internship at a socially responsible investment firm in Cambridge, Mass., where Joanne was Patrick Sr.’s supervisor.

“They had a far less fortunate upbringing than I did,” Luizzo said. “But they accomplished a lot at Northeastern and had bright futures ahead of them.”

Bright futures, indeed. Today, Joanne is an ICFR Program Management Audit Manager in her 24th year at TD Bank, and Patrick Sr. is a real estate agent with Realty ONE Compass in Auburn, after more than 20 years as a Lead Disability Representative at Unum.

Looking back on his college experience, Luizzo said he knew how much going to college and Northeastern meant to his parents when they took him to visit the campus during his senior year at Edward Little High School.

“They told me all of these stories as we walked around the campus. Where they would meet, how the buildings had changed. I could see how excited they were for me to attend Northeastern,” Luizzo recalled. “Regardless of the price tag, I knew I was going there. I wanted to finish what my parents started.”

While the $10,000 Mitchell Scholarship helped keep the cost of college within reach, Luizzo said all of the additional wraparound supports the Institute provides Scholars were just as valuable.

“Being a Mitchell Scholar in college was life-changing,” he said. “The Institute provided me with countless network opportunities, financial support, and a place that felt like home, filled with people that always felt like family. The Mitchell Institute made me less afraid to take risks, knowing that I always had a support system cheering me on and ready to catch me if I fell.”

Weeks after his final semester, Luizzo said the significance of being the first in his family to earn a college degree is still sinking in.

“The apartment where they lived was just down the street from mine. It sometimes gets me when I know I walked the same streets they walked at my age,” he said. “We pulled it off together. It was a family affair, and they supported me 100 percent. I don’t think it’s going to fully hit me until I walk across the stage this May and I get to hand them my diploma.”