Being a first-generation college student has helped me understand the challenges faced by the young people I advise. Both my parents are immigrants from Haiti. My mom, from as far back as I can remember, was like ‘if you don’t go to college, you can’t live here.’ It was funny, but it helped reinforce what was expected of me.
I also had two older sisters who were great examples. They both went to HBCUs and I knew that I wanted that college experience.
I grew up outside Atlanta, GA, went to public school, and decided that I wanted to be a singer. I knew back from Gwen Stefani’s “No Doubt” days that I wanted to be a singer, but it wasn’t until I got to high school and college that I decided to pursue opera. My dad got me into classical, he had tons of cassettes and records of Beethoven and Mozart symphonies. Pursuing a music degree was really difficult. That’s not something my sisters did, so I kind of had to chart my own way.
I went to Georgia State—not a school known for music, but it was an in-state school which made it more affordable and I got a grant for maintaining a GPA above 3.0. I was a resident assistant and helped students fill out their FAFSAs and apply for financial aid. That’s when I realized I had a knack for this kind of work and one-on-one interactions with students.
I love the impact that I have with students. The thing that sticks out to me is how expensive an education is, especially for low-income students and students of color. The odds are so stacked against you. It’s so tricky to figure out what college will cost, trying to decode an award letter.
One thing I really love is seeing a student submit their FAFSA and CSS. Just seeing that weight lifted off of their shoulders. Especially if they’re really stressed out, helping them get it done and seeing their excitement is one of my favorite parts of the day. And then also getting accepted into college.
It’s just so hard to get a college degree—it’s just so expensive—but as the years go on it’s so much harder to get a job without a college degree. I’m so glad that organizations like uAspire and our college advising programs exist to help students. Otherwise, years later, students may end up realizing they have a bunch of debt, and that maybe that wasn’t the best financial decision to make.