2018 Fellows

A Look at uAspire’s Afford & Succeed Programs

At uAspire we work to ensure that all young people have the financial information and resources necessary to find an affordable path to – and through – a postsecondary education. We strive to accomplish this goal through a variety of means: in-person andAllie Karen Holiday Party virtual (texting) advising with high school and postsecondary students, training guidance counselors and in-school practitioners, and through policy work.

Both Allie and Karen advise students virtually and in-person, but Allie works with high school students and Karen works with postsecondary students! Below they outline how they support students to and through postsecondary plans through their respective programs, Afford and Succeed:  

uAspire’s Afford Program 

College Affordability Advisors in the Afford Program work one-on-one with high school students to provide them with the tools to successfully navigate and manage the multi-step financial aid process. Rather than filling out a financial aid application, like the FAFSA, for students, we aim to empower them to be self-advocates and take ownership of their financial aid process and journey to postsecondary plans. In deciding upon postsecondary plans we encourage students to consider cost and affordability, in addition to other factors like program/ college fit. Deciding on postsecondary plans can sometimes be challenging, confusing, and overwhelming, we try to serve as sounding boards for students to consider their different options and think critically about next steps. Once seniors graduate from high school, we spend the summer months texting them through our Summer College Connect (SCC) program to ensure they are ready to start college in the fall!

uAspire’s Succeed Program

The Succeed Program serves students who have graduated from high school, whether they are enrolled in a college or not. Succeed students can be anywhere in the state or country, therefore our communication with them starts via text. We send out reminders and important financial aid deadlines every few weeks, and we respond to students to support them with their individual needs. Advisors also support students in-person or via phone calls. Because financial aid must be renewed every year and is subject to change based on factors such as student/family income and GPA requirements, affordability is a major factor in college persistence for many students.

Allie Negron is the FAO Schwarz Marketing & Communications Fellow at uAspire. In this role, she spreads awareness about uAspire’s work and college affordability news. In the other half of her role, she serves as a College Affordability Advisor, where she works with Boston Public School students to guide them through every step of the financial aid process.

Karen Wilber is the FAO Schwarz Succeed Fellow at uAspire. In her role, she is a member of the team that develops curriculum for the Succeed Program and is a College Affordability Advisor serving postsecondary students.

 

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Social Justice in Our Work

Among the vast selection of picture books in the Reading Partners Library at PS 3 is Margaree King Miller’s, Granddaddy’s Gift. Miller’s book tells the story of a young black girl, Little Joe, growing up in Mississippi during the 1960s. Little Joe watches her grandfather fight for black voters rights and learns the value of education and advocacy. Told from the perspective of Little Joe, the last page of the book reads:

“Grandaddy had taught me to stand up for things, even if I was scared, and always to be proud. His gift never left me. At the top of the courthouse steps, Granddaddy took my hand. We had come a long way. We still had a long way to go.”

As I’ve embarked on the beginning of my Fellowship, Granddaddy’s message resoGranddaddy's Giftnates deeply with the ways I approach my work at my host organization. Reading Partners is a literacy nonprofit that provides individualized tutoring to early, struggling readers. Due to the fact I work directly with many young children of color, I want to find ways that I can stand up as an advocate for our students and apply social justice to my work.

All of the current Fellows have grappled with standing up for under served youth in some way or another as we push forward for equity in our roles. This year, we have focused on applying social justice to our work during our retreats, delving into the implications that our work has on current issues of racial justice. Through various workshops led by our fellows, we are analyzing the systemic forms of societal oppression that we must navigate in order to best serve the communities we work with. During our fall retreat in Philadelphia, we explored our work through the lens of the Black Lives Matter movement in order to discuss ways our organizations can resist racial injustice. At our upcoming spring retreat, we will be continuing this conversation by examining our organizations’ missions and strategizing for cultural competency in our programs. One of our Fellows will also lead a session on the Nonprofit Industrial Complex to explore the role that nonprofits play in the greater economic and social scene.

The Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC) brings to light the phenomenon in which nonprofits must often appeal to the agendas of funders in order to receive grants and sustain their organizations. As more nonprofits apply for the funding, social justice initiatives can take the back burner to business operations. Here arises a dilemma in which an organization may stray from its intended mission. In turn, a nonprofit may enact initiatives or say-all solutions for the communities it serves without taking into account the real issues that need to be addressed. This session will be focused on the ways that we can work with our organizations to subvert and challenge the NPIC. With these different factors in play, from institutionalized racism and classism to economic structures of neoliberalism, the Fellows have a sense of urgency to committing to anti-racism and social justice.
Although all of us have different paths as to how we ended up at the FAO Schwarz Family
Foundation Fellowship, I think that there is one core value that connects all of us in some capacity. We all have a passion for enacting change through leadership and standing up for the youth we work with. The current fellows are sensitive to the current events that shape our society and have given a lot of thought to the ways that we can approach our work and to fight oppression. Therefore, I urge you to take into account the ways in which you can stand up for anti-racism and equality in your workplaces and in your personal lives. Even when we are scared or confused, it’s vital for all of us to remember Granddaddy’s message and to stand up for what we believe is right and just. Although I think that we still have a long way to go, we are on the right path to fostering bright futures for our country’s next generation of leaders.

Claudia von Nostitz is the FAO Schwarz Fellow at Reading Partners in New York. She is a literacy tutor in two elementary schools in Brooklyn and develops city-wide strategies to engage the communities around the schools Reading Partners serves. Claudia seeks to build sustainable partnerships that will help support and empower the students that she works with.

 

Why I Chose to Work For uAspire

I grew up in a household with a mother who was very on top of my college application and
financial aid processes- so much so that I didn’t have to do much more than log into my student portal and accept my financial aid package each year. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I started to understand allie-graduationthe time, commitment, and knowledge that goes into submitting financial aid forms.

Today, I realize just how fortunate I was to have this built-in mentor, my mother, guide me through the tedious, multi-step college application and financial aid processes. Due to the fact that I can now appreciate just how fortunate I was I also realize that there are many students that may not have a parent, legal guardian, older sibling, friend, etc. to serve as their guide towards reaching postsecondary education.

I decided to work for uAspire because I want to help students with dreams of going to college, reach their goals. But as many, if not all Americans know, post-secondary education does not come cheap. The realization that going to college can become very expensive is stressful in and of itself, and that coupled with trying to find a way to make it affordable can be extremely overwhelming, especially while juggling school work, applying to college, and a plethora of other responsibilities. I am by no means the only person that can or will help a student make it to college, but I enjoy doing what I can to make the college-going process more digestible for students.

allie-uaspireI am a firm believer in the idea that education is right and not a privilege. Students that put in the hard work and effort in school to go to college shouldn’t be stopped short because of high cost. I feel very fortunate to be able to meet and work with seniors and learn about their dreams for college and beyond. While I may only provide them a tidbit of knowledge and a few tools, the students take what they learn and run with it. I am only part of their journey for a small fraction of time, but it is incredible to witness students take ownership and control of their futures and not let obstacles stop them from achieving their goals. Working at uAspire provides me with the opportunity to meet and work with motivated, inspirational students, while simultaneously helping to ensure that higher education is attainable for everyone– I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and for the students I’m getting to meet along the way.

Allie Negron is the FAO Schwarz Marketing & Communications Fellow at uAspire. In this role, she spreads awareness about uAspire’s work and college affordability news. In the other half of her role, she serves as a College Affordability Advisor, where she works with Boston Public School students to guide them through every step of the financial aid process.