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The Cost of College Won’t Hold Me Back

Education, General Foundation News


Age: 17
City: Los Angeles, CA
College: University of California, Berkeley

“In Honduras, parents don’t usually deal with their children leaving. My mom is nervous and cries when she thinks about me leaving,” explains Christina.

Despite that, Christina knew she wanted to go to college. She joined lots of clubs to prepare, like a peer mentoring program and Rotary Interact Club. “I want to become a lawyer so I also joined the Young Lawyers Program. Every Thursday a bus took me to Loyola Law School and I learned about the trial system and law techniques.”

Her mom came to the United States before Christina was born. “She was looking for a better future. Eventually my older brother came too, but he was deported back to Honduras.”

“In my junior year, back in Honduras, my brother was shot. It was a really tough experience. Shortly after, my grandmother passed away. I left with my mom to go to Honduras to deal with family issues and missed a lot of school,” she says.

Trying to stay focused on her future

The tragedy with her brother and passing of her grandmother almost derailed Christina’s dreams. “I had to make up coursework. I started getting a lot of criticism from my family for always being out for programs in and out of school. They said I was just looking for a boyfriend, but it was never like that,” she says.

“The reason for everything I do is because I want to go to college. I constantly told myself, you know why you are doing this.”

“But when I started looking at the cost of college, I was astonished. I come from a low-income family. My mom is a housekeeper and the sole provider.”

Some of the other programs Christina participated in were Heart of Los Angeles and One Voice. “They were the ones who introduced me to the FAFSA and financial aid,” she remembers.

“I decided to fill out the FAFSA because I’d worked so hard in school — I didn’t want money to all of a sudden be the issue.”

How she got her mom’s support

“I knew I needed my mom’s information for the FAFSA, but it was hard because she was hesitant at first,” Christina recalls.

“She didn’t know what was going on. She was worried about how it might affect her government assistance or immigration status in the United States.”

What really helped was having her mom attend a workshop. “Heart of Los Angeles held workshops for parents almost every week about financial aid. I pestered her to go so she wouldn’t be lost in the process.”

“The counselors and everyone else in the room spoke Spanish, so my mom was able to understand everything and felt comfortable. Once they introduced the idea of financial aid being based on financial need, she understood that, if we didn’t do this, I wouldn’t receive any kind of help for college.”

“I decided to fill out the FAFSA because I’d worked so hard in school – I didn’t want money to all of a sudden be the issue.”

Christina was able to fill out the FAFSA once she had her mom’s information. “The only thing that caught me off guard was the terms they used. There were words I didn’t understand, so I had to wait until my counselor could meet with me so I could put in the right answers.”

“In total I am receiving $31,629 in financial aid. I got offered more from a college on the East Coast, but I wanted to go to Cal. I followed what my heart said.”

Christina’s advice: Take the risk

“I feel the important thing is letting people know you care. When I missed school because I was in Honduras, I told my teachers I wanted to keep being a good student, but I needed their support. They helped me make up work and keep studying for the SATs,” says Christina.

“And always ask for help,” she adds. “If I didn’t ask for help, I would have made a bunch of errors on the FAFSA.”

Lastly, Christina encourages others to apply for scholarships too. “I was stressed thinking about the cost of college, but that stress got me to fill out the FAFSA and apply for outside scholarships.”

“When I applied for my first one, I wasn’t confident and only did it because my counselor told me to take the risk. I got it! Just by taking these steps, I’m able to go to my dream school.”

Christina will be attending the University of California, Berkeley as a political science major. She plans to go on to law school and hopes to advance justice and help her community.