Growing up, I always knew I would go to college, but the path to get there was not clear. Because my mom didn’t go to college, I couldn’t turn to her for guidance.
At my high school, Josiah Quincy in Boston, I took advantage of a lot of programs designed for students from low-income families to increase my chances of getting into college. But the one support I did not take advantage of was my high school’s uAspire advisor.
In my home, money was not a topic we discussed, but in order to complete the FAFSA—the federal application required to receive financial aid—I needed my mom’s tax returns. So, one night while she slept, I searched through her filing cabinet with a flashlight to get what I needed. I completed the FAFSA on my own because I wasn’t comfortable asking for help or discussing my family’s ﬁnancial situation with the other adults in my life.
I am a proud graduate of UMass-Amherst and I loved my college experience, but I graduated with $20,000 in debt. I often think about how my situation would be different if I had met with my uAspire advisor when I was in high school. Perhaps I wouldn’t have so much debt and I could save money for things like a house or retirement.
This is why I’m passionate about being a uAspire advisor. Six years ago, I was walking in my advisees’ shoes, in the very same hallways. Like me, they are self-sufficient, hardworking, and ambitious. Unfortunately, without extra support, it’s just not enough.
I don’t want any of my advisees to ever ask “what if?” This is why I strive to make sure they know I’m in their corner and that we’re partners together in figuring out the best postsecondary option for them, even if the process is challenging and uncomfortable.
Last year I worked with Olivia, the valedictorian at East Boston High School. Her parents didn’t understand why she wanted to attend Brown University, a school they had never heard of. Throughout the year I really got to know Olivia. We spent over 20 hours together working on her financial aid applications and reviewing her award letters. Everyone at her school, including me, knew that she was going places. That’s why I am so glad I was able to coach her to have that difficult conversation with her parents about attending Brown, her dream school, where she is now a freshman.
Though uAspire advisors are experts in financial aid, we are also so much more than that for our students. My job is to give students the resources they need to make a financially sound college choice, and to inspire them to reach higher and advocate for themselves.