As a child, when Caterina ("Cat") Veneziano E’24, GE’25, played school with her cousins, she inherently knew her role: teacher. “Education has always felt like a calling. I didn’t choose the career of education, it chose me,” she explained.

A first-generation college student, Veneziano is pursuing a B.S.Ed. in Early Childhood Education and an M.S.Ed. in Special Education – Cognitive, Behavior, Physical/Health Disabilities through the School of Education’s Five-Year Early Start Program. By the end of 2025, she will have earned two degrees—a bachelor's in May 2024 and a master's in December 2025. 

“I toured Duquesne and fell in love with the layout of the campus and the School of Education. I loved the idea of being in the classroom from day one and getting an early start on my master’s degree. When I stepped into Canevin Hall for the first time, I knew it was the place for me,” remarked the Oakland Catholic High School graduate.

Veneziano’s passion for special education blossomed when she was in high school and her cousin was born with autism. Celebrating his victories (like telling her “Happy Birthday” for the first time and helping him find compatible foods and toys) inspired Veneziano to be an advocate for all special education students. 

“I love being able to find ways to best support my students even if they can’t always verbally tell me what they need,” she said.

Caterina Veneziano in the classroom with young students at Blessed Trinity Academy.
Veneziano with students at Blessed Trinity Academy

This semester Veneziano is reaching for her bigger goals by student teaching first graders at Holy Cross Academy in Pittsburgh. She is also an arts and enrichment instructor at Lauri Ann West Community Center in Pittsburgh and has worked as a paraprofessional for Blessed Trinity Academy in Glenshaw, Pa.

In addition to special education, adoption is another passion area for Veneziano. Growing up, Veneziano always knew she was adopted. “It made me feel special and unique. However, I also had the hardship of not knowing my biological background. I think it’s important for people to see the beauty in adoption, but also to know it is not easy for anyone involved, regardless of age,” she said.

In 2019, Veneziano was named a Junior Woman of Achievement by the Cribs for Kids organization for her adoption and mental health advocacy work on social media. She continues to serve as a strong voice on these topics.

Headshot of Cat Veneziano in front of bookshelf in Duquesne's Curriculum Center
Veneziano in the Curriculum Center at Duquesne's Gumberg Library

“My Duquesne education has helped me to become not only an advocate for myself, but for others,” she said.

According to Veneziano, Duquesne’s horizon-expanding education has provided her with a vast array of opportunities to interact with many different host teachers and grade levels in public, private and community classrooms.

“I have learned how to plan lessons for all grades rather than focusing on just one level or subject. All of these experiences have helped shape how I want my future classroom to be,” she explained.

When asked what advice she has for other first-gen students like herself, Veneziano said: “Being first generation can be challenging, but also so rewarding. Find yourself people you can rely on and trust to help you through the process and make the most out of your college experience. It’s exciting to see the joy my family holds helping me pursue a dream they have had all their lives. Be proud you are a first-generation college student!” 

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January 05, 2024