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My name is Carmella and I am an advisor on the Massachusetts Afford team. I have lived in Boston since I was two years old and I attended Boston Latin for high school and then I went to college at Harvard. I remember sitting down and looking through the CSS Profile, and it's asking me about assets and home ownership and I'm like, we're living paycheck to paycheck.

We don't have investments. We don't own property. They're asking about a parent who's not in the picture, things like that. So it was just a reminder that the higher education system in general, including the financial aid process, which is a key part in it, was not built for people like me.

"When I went through the financial aid process as a student I think a major thing that I learned is that it just wasn't built for people like me."

And there was an advisor at our school. Her name was Mercedes and she helped me with the FAFSA, the CSS Profile, taking steps and getting my non-custodial profile waived. It was very helpful to have someone to just sit down and walk through it with me and let me know that I wasn't on my own.

It was definitely challenging trying to figure out how to pay for college because a lot of these places for one year costs more than my mother made in an entire year. And me thinking am I going to have to work a job on the weekends? I was working part-time in high school for a minimum wage so it wasn't like I had a whole bunch of money saved up to cover if I was going to live on campus. Was I going to commute? The indirect expenses that we talk about, those were all very present on my mind. And it seemed like I was about to jump into a hole for the next four years that I wasn't going to be able to get out of.

I was lucky to get into a school that gave me full 100% need-based aid and to graduate without debt and things like that. 

I wanted to join uAspire because I knew that we were serving the community and we were doing good work. I knew I wanted to work with youth in some capacity and I knew I wanted to work with youth in my community. And it really is great because a lot of the schools that I work out are like, a 10-minute drive from my house and the students are my neighbors.

And I wanted to be able to show my students that if someone like me could achieve my goals that I set out to that you could do it as well.