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“She had me pretty young,” Dejah, who has six siblings, says of her mother, “and now she’s getting her associate’s degree. I’m pretty proud of her and seeing her do something different encouraged me to go to school too and be something better.”

A recent graduate of Fenway High School in Boston and a freshman at Framingham State University, Dejah and her mom will be the firsts in their family to graduate college.

“I grew up with both parents pushing me and encouraging me, and always there to support me through everything that I’ve been through. Now this is like, ‘Hey, thank you to you guys, I’m doing something bigger.’”

"I’m helping others because I went to school and learned something that I’m passionate about."

Like many of the students at her high school, where nearly 75 percent of their families are at or below the federal poverty line, the biggest barrier Dejah faced getting to college was financial. When she needed help with the FAFSA, she connected with Katelyn, the uAspire advisor at her high school.

“Katelyn was a very big help,” says Dejah. “She would always email me like, ‘Hey do you want to set up an appointment? Did you get the chance to look over this? Did you do this?’”

After celebrating her acceptances in the spring, they worked together to review Dejah’s financial aid award letters. “Katelyn made a chart to see the difference between each school and how much I’d be paying. She was also the one pushing me to do a lot of scholarships. She did more than I expected from someone, so I appreciated that.”

Over the summer after graduation, Dejah recalls, “I didn’t know that certain paperwork and certain questions needed to get done at a certain time, so when I got billed what I had to pay for tuition, I was like, what are all these numbers?” She turned to her summer uAspire advisor, Simone, on her phone for text support.

“It’s very helpful. Whenever something pops up in my head that I forgot to do or I have a question, I’ll just shoot her a text and she’ll always respond with an answer. Even if I’m not texting her, she’ll always text me. She was always there to help, which was useful and met my needs because everything has been kind of confusing starting this new process.”

Determined and resourceful, Dejah pushed herself through this complicated process of financing college to achieve more than her peers, and she can continue to count on uAspire’s text advising support throughout her first two years at Framingham State.

Dejah, who wants to be a nutritionist, says, “I want to be able to tell someone my story, ‘I got to experience college, and these are the many things I got to do.’ And then going off and starting my career, being able to say, ‘I’m helping others because I went to school and learned something that I’m passionate about.' I’m just ready to grow as this young adult and go through this new journey and see what comes from there.