uAspire First One – Bob Giannino-Racine

By: Chris Loney | Friday, November 30, 2012

Finances are the #1 barrier that keeps high-potential students across our country from continuing their education and earning a degree. As part of the uAspire First One Awards, uAspire will be featuring stories of individuals who are first-generation college graduates. Despite many challenges – often because of the high costs of college – they persevered and earned their college degree. Their stories show why it’s so important that education remains an affordable option to all, and how uAspire is committed to this effort.

uAspire’s Chief Executive Officer, Bob Giannino-Racine, has a college success story very similar to those of the young people that he is committed to helping.  As a first generation college student, Bob has lived the mission of uAspire and has been dedicated to growing its impact since joining the organization in 2005.

Growing  up in Somerville, Massachusetts, Bob’s family had very little financial resources. His father worked as a forklift driver and his mother worked as a school bus monitor. Conversations about financial aid and paying for college were limited and after choosing and applying to colleges, he was left to tackle the financial aid process alone.

Bob was fortunate enough to be accepted to Harvard, where he received generous financial aid. Unfortunately, it was not until he arrived on campus that he began to understand the impact that a gap of a few thousand dollars could have on his college dreams. This late realization, along with his lack of financial guidance in high school, landed him with a mountain of student debt that seemed inescapable. Even after working two jobs, Bob was forced to leave school for a year to work full-time in order to get his finances in order.

Bob’s financial struggles as a first generation college student has inspired him to help more students navigate the college affordability process. He shares the vision and mission of uAspire, a world where all students have access to the information and guidance they need to realize their college dreams, and has worked tirelessly to achieve this goal by broadening uAspire’s scope of service.

When Bob arrived at uAspire in 2005, the organization served about 1,000 high school seniors in Boston by helping them to complete their FAFSA.  Under Bob’s direction uAspire has sustained exponential expansion – quadrupling both the number the number of high school seniors served and the number of advising sessions for each student. uAspire has opened sites across Massachusetts in both Lawrence and Springfield and most recently Miami, Florida. In addition, uAspire has implemented new programming that prepares students earlier, guides them throughout the financial aid process and supports students through college to ensure postsecondary success – enabling the organization to reach more than 11,000 young people a year.

Under Bob’s leadership, uAspire has been recognized for the important role it plays in the college access and success field. In the last three years alone, uAspire received the College Access Organization of Excellence Award by the National College Access Network, was named a Social Innovator by the Social Innovation Forum, was recognized by Opportunity Knocks as one of nation’s Best Non-Profits to Work For, and was awarded the Boston Foundation’s prestigious Out of the Blue award recognizing “exceptional non-profit leadership” in Boston. Bob’s mantra for his work at uAspire has been, “Every kid deserves to go to college and needs to understand how to pay for it. That’s what’s so compelling about the work of uAspire that moves us to want to reach more kids.”


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