uAspire Student Alums Spotlight
June 16, 2022
uAspire Student Alums May and Marvin talk about carving out their own education and career paths, offer advice to other first-gen students, and share why they stay connected to uAspire.
Joshua: My name is Joshua Etienne and I am the regional advising director for Massachusetts for uAspire. I'm joined today by two uAspire alumni and previous First One honorees themselves, May Bumar and Marvin Valdez. May is a senior analyst in project management at Liberty Mutual Insurance and a uAspire board member. Marvin is an associate at Great Hill Partners and has stayed connected to uAspire through volunteering.
Thank you both so much for helping us highlight uAspire’s advising which provides students with the one-on-one support they need to secure financial aid and manage costs so that they can afford to complete a degree.
First, tell us a little bit about yourselves and your educational and career experiences. How did your uAspire advisors support you on your journey and in what ways did the support make a difference in your life?
May: I was a part of uAspire since 2010. During that time, I was very confused about where my career was headed or where my academic path was headed, and I was working with uAspire and I was very lucky and fortunate to be working with Adam and Claire at the time. They gave me the reassurance and the financial preparation that I needed to pursue my education.
I initially was enrolled in a nursing program, figured out that wasn't the right path. And throughout this whole process, my biggest concern was not graduating with student loan debt.
And, you know, we brainstormed and figured out the right path for me was community college. I did my pre-reqs, gen eds, and then I transferred to Northeastern University to pursue my Bachelor's in Finance and Accounting. And after that, I was able to successfully land a career within Liberty Mutual Investments with my co-op and since then I’ve been working there and loving it. And yeah, it's really just thanks to uAspire for giving me that path and giving me the reassurance and advice that I needed to get where I'm at today.
Marvin: My uAspire advisor was instrumental in not only helping me navigate the complex college and financial aid admissions process, but also in supporting me initially in college.
I remember we would meet multiple times a week, especially during my senior year in high school. We would just go through each application, and she would help fill me fill it out. And then, especially once I started receiving admissions letters, she was always the first person that I would go to, because she really helped me understand not only would this college be the right fit for me, educationally and personally, but would it also make financial sense in terms of just the financial aid they'd be able to provide, given that I knew I wouldn't be able to afford it out of pocket.
In some way, uAspire was instrumental in helping me get on this path to where I am in life, where I was able to attend Columbia University and graduate, then immediately afterwards having the chance at entering the FinTech and payments space, where I'm currently working at Great Hill Partners, investing in a wide variety of companies in FinTech. So without uAspire, I wouldn't be able to get to where I am right now.
Joshua: Thank you both for those answers. You both have actively chosen to remain connected to the organization in different ways since you graduated from college. Why is it important to you to give back with your time?
Marvin: Personally, for me, it's about giving back to an organization that gave me so much when I was navigating the college admissions process. And, serving as an example to other first-gen, low-income students that they can set themselves up to success if they just put their mind in and put the time into it. So serving as an example, and just also giving back to an organization that gave me so much.
May: As a first-generation college student, I didn't have the resources to successfully pursue my degree and uAspire gave me so much knowledge throughout the way. And I think because I grew up in a low-income neighborhood there are a lot of students with similar backgrounds as myself. And the reason why I'm so motivated to just fulfill uAspire’s mission is because they have helped me so much throughout the years and I want to be able to give back to students who come from the same backgrounds as I did when I was younger and give them that reassurance as well that a college education is possible, it's affordable and students can definitely fulfill whatever dreams that they have.
Joshua: Thank you both for that. We're really happy to have you as a part of our community. Our audience today includes first-generation students who are currently enrolled in our advising programs. What advice would you give them as they navigate being the first in their family to graduate from college?
May: Definitely ask all the questions that you need to ask. With my experience alone, I was very lost with just financially related questions. And, on top of that as well, uAspire has given me so much clarity about the different career avenues that I can pursue within my education.
You can always ask questions, there's so much support amongst us all. Asking the right questions is so important because we have so many resources to really get us to where we need to be. And I think with uAspire just supporting me throughout the years and being very consistent about it, I felt more confident in where my career was headed.
Marvin: What my one piece of advice would be is to never doubt yourself. I think first-gen, low-income students have the tendency to fall into imposter syndrome, I know I did as well, given that we're coming from a background where we're the first ones navigating the spaces that we enter.
So, my one piece of advice is to never doubt yourself and know that anything you set your mind to you're able to accomplish as long as you just put the work and the hours in to do so.
Joshua: Thank you so much. To close us out, May and Marvin, thank you so much for your time today and to share your voice and your stories with us. We're so lucky to have you as part of the uAspire network.