College

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.

Putting Your Degree to Work in the Nonprofit Sector

Long before entering college, I began developing my interest in the environment through my first passion: Books. I consumed books on all sorts of environmental issues,  from factory farms  to mountaintop removal, shaping my decision to pursue a BA in Literature and minor in Environmental Studies. Early on in college, I began wondering which of my interests I would pursue after graduation — it seemed nearly impossible to merge the two. In those early moments of contemplation, the options seemed both divergent and limited.

Up until my junior year in college, I didn’t have a strong grasp on the non-profit sector as a potential means of employment after graduation. Nonprofits existed in a distant and abstract way, strongly associated with the word volunteering, not as a 12081134_967137013324870_1828249579_npotential employer. Volunteers are critical to the nonprofit sector, but many forget full-time staff members manage volunteers, raise funds, write curriculum, plan events, and coordinate campaigns.

I was fortunate to meet a recent-college graduate working in the nonprofit sector teaching college students to become change agents on their campus. Within weeks of meeting her and learning about the possibility of a career in advocacy, my post-college trajectory became clear: I wanted to work at an environmental non-profit. Nearly 4 years later, I couldn’t be happier to be in the nonprofit sector. It’s an odd thought to consider the possibility I wouldn’t be here without non-profit employment opportunities having been demystified and made accessible to me.

At functions with family, friends, or other people outside the nonprofit world, people are often  surprised to hear my title, Education and Outreach Coordinator. They’re intrigued to hear that community engagement, volunteer coordination, and partnership development is a full time job. Despite their many questions and persistent confusion, I’ll continue triaging their questions and explaining the existence of careers in the nonprofit industry. We must become our own best advocates, and promote not only our organizational goals, but also the wonderful industry of passionate change-agents we work in.

When students contemplate their far-off future after high school and college graduation, they don’t envision revolutionizing recess, coordinating regional cleanups, or using art to create social and political change. I hope with willingness, determination, and conversation, this will change.

Jen Benson is an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow at Riverkeeper. As the Education and Outreach Coordinator, she creates opportunities to increase youth environmental awareness and engagement with the Hudson River. She also works to support campaign and programmatic initiatives, and helps coordinate the Riverkeeper Sweep.

Conquering Millennial Anxieties: Lessons from service

I have never been a fan of phone calls.JOE

My childhood anxiety around the idea of picking up the phone and dialing family members or girls I liked only increased as texting grew popular and threw the original form of communication out into the retro dump of futility. So when one of the high school seniors I was working with called my cell phone, I was scared. Had she already heard bad news from one of her early action schools? Did I forget to mention a scholarship deadline? What potential maelstrom had befallen us?

Instead, she announced through tear-filled elation that she had received the Posse Scholarship, a full-tuition ride that also served as a gateway to a “posse” of other students attending the same school that would stay with her as she traversed her four years of higher education. Moreover, this scholarship was to Brandeis University, a strong academic institution and one she had been eyeing throughout the college process.

Though I was undoubtedly proud of her incredible accomplishment, what made me the most emotional was the fact that she continued to thank me, as if I were the one who made the decision or carried the brunt of the work. I responded with incredulity, pushing the onus back on her and congratulating her again and again for the incredible journey ahead of her. But what this interaction cemented for me was the impact moments like these—and the journeys required to get there—have on our students.

It comes as no surprise that getting to college can prove to be extremely hard for the population of students we serve; the combination of institutionally-driven restrictions, financial burdens, and implicit feelings of mediocrity causes many young scholars to falter and doubt their potential. As a first-generation man of color from an underserved community in Los Angeles, I have felt these uncertainties creep up at the most inopportune moments. Without reassurance from trusted sources, these suspicions can derail and destroy students’ paths to successes.

This is the reason I came Breakthrough New York as an FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow in the first place—to allow the fresh ideas of our next generation of leaders to flourish and mature as they traverse an environment that sometimes seeks to reject or stifle. To be completely transparent, this job can be difficult sometimes; serving students of all needs demands an attention to detail and a perseverance that can sometimes be exhausting. But when you get to witness moments like these, feel the emotions shine through with every letter of admission or internship acceptance, any doubt or frustration once had fades away.

It’s why I do what I do. And it’s why even when I feel my heart flutter, when a student calls, I pick up the phone.

 

Joseph Rosales is the FAO Schwarz Family Foundation Fellow and High School Coordinator for Breakthrough New York, a college success program that works with high-achieving, underserved students from across New York City. Using his own experiences as a first-gen student of color, he supports high school students in any way they need in an effort to help prepare them for the educational road ahead.