I won’t experience graduation like I wanted.

Sonia

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What is Karla up to now?

Karla v2

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“Progress has been slow.”

I was born in a small town in the countryside of Brazil. Growing up with limited resources and non-educated parents, my vision of the world was very limited. I was brought up in a very oppressive environment. My parents were physically and emotionally abusive. They were uneducated people that only understood violence as the way to “educate” their children. I am also the youngest of three children and suffered abuse from my older brothers as well.

I always knew I was gay, but being raised in an environment of constant fear and anxiety, I never felt comfortable talking to my family about issues regarding my sexuality. I was closeted until the age of nineteen. Being gay in a small town in a developing country was not easy. I suffered a lot of bullying in high school and was constantly being picked on for being a vulnerable and scared kid. Unfortunately, I did not receive much support from my parents. I moved to Seattle in March 2016 coming from New York. Most of my closest family members passed away. I just have my mom and two brothers that live in Brazil.

Why do I want an education? Because I honestly believe that only with education can we as a society build a future where humankind will have more respect for each other and the environment we live in. Only with education will we prosper without wars, in harmony with nature, and with more compassion for the ones that need the most.

My college education journey in the USA started in 2010. Progress has been slow since I have always had to work to support myself and have not always had the spare money to pay for school tuition. I have only been able to study part-time throughout these years. My major challenge comes from the fact that because it has been taking so long for me to finish my AA degree; some of the school credits I got a few years ago have already expired. I now have to retake classes I took more than five years ago in order to move forward. It is very frustrating for me because I cannot afford to be a full-time student.

I am enthusiastic about biological sciences. I truly believe that we, as a society, have so much potential to improve the quality of our lives in the environment we live in through the development, study, and application of bio-research. I have always been very curious about understanding the diagnostic methods used to determine the source of illnesses, as well as the effects and side effects of drugs prescribed for the treatment of diseases.

Seattle Education Access has provided me funds that helped me to pay my school tuition. I have received scholarships from SEA these last two quarters. The help has made a significant difference. Before the beginning of each quarter, I check my budget to see if I have money to pay the tuition, cost of books, rent, and provide myself with basic needs. I analyze if I can realistically afford all these expenses or if I have to skip a quarter to save some extra money and go back to school next quarter because, at that moment, the money I have is not going to be enough. The SEA scholarships have lifted some of that financial burden. And for me, it is not just the stress relief about how I can afford to pay tuition and be able to survive. There is also an emotional component. I feel emotionally supported. This scholarship means that there are folks out there that believe in me and feel that I will succeed in finishing school. This feeling feeds me with energy and courage that keeps me moving forward.

My Education Advocate, Hansell, is an important person for me. About a year ago, I shared a little bit of my story at a meeting where Hansell was present. A few months later, I was at the cafeteria at Seattle Central College and he approached me, told me he saw me at that meeting, that he worked for SEA, gave me his card, and offered me help if I needed it. I didn’t recognize him because I was so nervous while speaking about myself in front of a bunch of strangers. I am very grateful to Hansell for approaching me at that time and for being so kind and supportive. Also, a few months ago, I was working on my personal statement for applications, and Hansell told me I could count on SEA help with the editing. It was a huge help and I am very grateful for it.

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How can I change my life for good?

My name is Nahúm, and I am 33 years old. I am from a little town in the rural México, where the only ones who have a reliable paycheck are the doctors, the teachers, and the municipality workers. I come from a low-income family who struggled to provide us food and give us an education.  Both of my parents do not have an education, so they barely know how to read and write. While my father dedicated his life to harvesting corn in the fields, my mother dedicated hers to being a housewife and taking care of me and my siblings. I am so proud of my parents because they always kept us together as a family.

Back in Mexico, I completed high school, but I never got to attend college due to a lack of resources and employment. In those days, I always wanted to continue my studies, but that seemed to be a forgotten dream. It was because of these struggles that I bravely decided to immigrate alone to the United States at the age of 21 with no support. I ended up in Seattle and have been living here for about 12 years. Since moving to Seattle, I have lived alone and away from family. Maybe it is not that I already got used to the idea of living alone but rather to the realization that life is not perfect. Since I was young when I left home in search of new opportunities, I did not fully anticipate how much not knowing English and not having a Social Security Number would be a barrier. After I arrived here, I got a job in Auburn at McDonald’s, which helped me to meet my basic needs for a few years while living in Federal Way, and I used the bus to commute to Auburn. One day, a very nice and respectful old coworker told me:

“If you really want to do something in your life, leave this place, get an education, and look for a better job. Look at me, I have been working here for more than 20 years, and nothing has changed for good for me.”

Since that moment, I knew I had to do something different, so I moved to Seattle and continued to work at a different McDonalds. Here, I was determined to get back to school. I registered at Seattle Central College, and I completed my ESL and GED Diploma. However, when I hit the college level, I did not have an ID. I had already tried many times to get one, but I was always denied, so I just gave up for a few years, ending frustrated, disappointed, and sad. After I finished my ESL and GED, and because I did not have an ID, I completed my college degree online from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. In fact, I even got to take two semesters for a Bachelors’s degree in Political Sciences, which helped me improve my Spanish. Then, I returned to Seattle Central College and completed my AA Degree during the winter quarter of 2020.

Although it has been a long journey with ups and downs, I was finally able to achieve my goal of earning my college education. I am so happy and enthusiastic about continuing to move forward by transferring to the University of Washington for the upcoming fall quarter. I am planning to take steps towards a Master’s degree in international studies because I love social sciences. Once I complete my Master’s degree, I hope to work as a teacher. Thanks to getting an education, I have learned not only to speak and write in English but also in Spanish and French. I am so proud to be the first one in my family to get a college education.

Getting to this point in my life has not been easy. Because I am an undocumented student, I do not have access to employment, scholarships, or state and federal resources. In this sense, the SEA scholarship has been of great support in helping me accomplish my educational goals and meet my living expenses; otherwise, I would have dropped college a while ago. The SEA scholarship helps me pay for books, rent, food, utilities, phone service, and other related personal needs. This has really made a great difference in my life. Similarly, I would like to thank my Education Advocate, Hansell,  the staff he works with, and in general the SEA Organization for the great support. Hansell has always been very supportive to me in proving me the scholarly tools and the financial resources needed so that I can stay focus on my education. Thank you very much.

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“Mija, be extraordinary!”

I have a lot of reasons why I push and push myself to be successful in life. My most important reason and my biggest motivation is my son, Jose. I had my son at the age of 17; I was just becoming a junior in high school. Let me tell you, that has been my biggest challenge. But that didn’t stop me from graduating high school or from making goals for my life. When I got pregnant, everyone was doubting me. They didn’t think I would be able to graduate from high school. I won’t lie, it was exhausting, but I wasn’t going to let others talk me down into being an unsuccessful mother. So yes, I was walking around school with my huge and I mean huge belly around campus.

Another very important reason why I try so hard in life is for my father, Jose. I like to think that all fathers try and give their children their best, but my father is an extraordinary man. He came to the United States chasing his dreams 20 years ago. His dreams for his children were a better place to grow up, a better education and to be more stable than back in Mexico. These dreams didn’t come easy.

My father supports me in absolutely everything I do and is always telling me “Mija (daughter) please have dreams and goals for your future, but don’t only dream them, live up to them. Be a somebody in this world, don’t be ordinary but rather extraordinary.”

I won’t stop until I accomplish my dad’s dreams of seeing me become a somebody in this world.

Just like the Mexican saying, I have an angel watching over me and leading me to the right path. This angel happens to be Nicollette Roe, my Education Advocate. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for Nicollette, I would have lost it by now and dropped out. She’s been nothing but a blessing to my educational and personal life! Due to her, I’m going to achieve another dream goal I have set for myself. I am very focused on finishing my A.A. at Highline College. I am planning to transfer to the University of Washington to get my Bachelor’s.

Now that we are so close to Thanksgiving, I want to thank Nicollette for all she does, not only for me but for other students as well. She always goes above and beyond in helping her students with anything and everything! She’s an extraordinary woman and I look up to her. I want to be her when I grow up.

So, thank you Nicollette for being such a blessing to me and to others. Thank you, SEA, for hiring amazing people like Nicollette and for awarding me with a scholarship. That scholarship made a big impact on me because I got to continue with my education.

Thank you all for helping us students to get closer to our dream goals.

-Kendra

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“If I can conquer foster care and homelessness, I know others can too.”

Kristine taking graduation photos after completing her Master’s in Social Work!

During my higher education journey, I have experienced many financial hardships, including not having a strong support system in my life. I lost my father to a brain attack stroke. After my father passed away, things went downhill for my family and I and we became homeless for 2 years. At the age of twelve I was removed from my biological mother and placed into the foster care system. I grew up not knowing who majority of my biological family was, so my support system has been weak, especially financial support systems. Much of what I have accomplished has been due to the support of Seattle Education Access and other academic programs such as the Accelerator YMCA. I do not know where I would be if it wasn’t for my education advocate, Jeff.

My Education Advocate helped to eliminate many financial barriers that I faced while achieving higher learning. My EA helped me with many different things such as paying for college applications, or registration holds that prevented me from registering for classes. My EA helped pay for my graduation cap/gown/tassel, and he also connected me to scholarships that Seattle Education Access provided. My Education Advocate also helped me gain many leadership skills which benefited me. For example, he hired me to work on the Student Advisory Board, which I participated in for 2 years. Also, he offered many opportunities to earn stipends by assisting in interview sessions with new Education Advocate/Board Member applicants. My Education Advocate has always motivated me to achieve and reach my highest potential. I would not have accelerated this far in my educational goals if I did not have my Education Advocate.

Having a master’s degree in Social Work is a big accomplishment for me. I am a first-generation college student. Many of my family members did not attend college. Having a master’s degree helps me feel more stable in my life, and it also reminds me that I can do anything I put my mind too. Having a master’s degree and accomplishing my educational goals has provided many opportunities for me and has strengthened my support system tremendously! If I can conquer foster care, homelessness, discrimination, and poverty; I know other individuals are capable as well.

 

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“I thought my problems were too much for any program.”

Kentrice at her graduation. She received an A.A. in Business from Seattle Central College.

My name is Kentrice and I came from Arkansas for high school. I did not want to come here. I was afraid of change. I thought I had all my friends I needed back home, even family. I had big eyes on the city once me and my family arrived in Seattle. The city is HUGE! A small country gal could not fathom the thought of having a successful life here. Where do I start?

Things don’t always work out in life how we expect. My parents couldn’t work out their differences and I was stuck in the middle. Do I go back home, where there are no opportunities or do I stay here and make my life better? It wasn’t an easy choice leaving my mother back home, but I know there’s a purpose for me here to make something of myself. Look at me, making life decisions that will change my life forever. Well, at least I thought it was the right decision. 

Later that year, my father lost his home and could no longer afford to take care of me. Once again, I had to stop my teenage life to make another huge decision. Either I can go to foster care, or go home. I went back to Arkansas for my junior year of high school and immediately discovered there was no home for me anywhere. My heart was broken. I am tired. What do you do when life throws a curveball? You’re supposed to keep your eye on the ball, but how? 

I was homeless with my mother until I was 17, sleeping from pillow to post, trying to make it to school on time. I didn’t make it to school several times and people took notice. Once again, I’m in this cycle of survival and foster care. Child Protective Services bought me a one way ticket back to Seattle live with my dad. 

I was really upset once I got back to WA to only find out that my father was not responsible enough to take care of me. During this time, I felt that homelessness was a trend in my life. I could not settle down and focus on school because I did not know where I would sleep that night, let alone eat a meal. My senior year at Rainier Beach High School is when my life was filled with purpose and hope for my future. I met Jeff Corey from SEA through my school’s program. 

I was relieved that there is hope for underprivileged students. I first met with Jeff in spring 2012. I was scared that if I told him I really needed help and support, that he couldn’t really help. I was afraid to tell my truth because I felt like my problems were too much and no program would stand by my side. I have the most amazing mentor in Jeff that any youth could ask for. Jeff opened his arms to me, Kentrice, and built a bond that will last forever. Not only did Jeff welcome me to SEA, he provided me with resources and networks to continue school and find housing. 

I stopped school after high school to try and find a stable place to live. Jeff connected me with housing, and from there I branched out to different resources. He helped me find a room in the University District, somewhere I could afford and work. I stopped talking to Jeff for a while I focused on stabilizing my life. One day, I decided I really needed to go back to school to change my life. Jeff still had the same phone number! I was so shocked and relieved to know that SEA will still stay with me. I was so happy because Jeff was still the same and he still welcomed me back in. He helped me progress in college. 

He helped me with tutoring, mentoring, financial aid, everything! There were so many struggles at Seattle Central. As I was attending, I challenged myself to pursue a degree that not only was beneficial, but was challenging. I worked for a business degree. Jeff stuck with me throughout my three years at Seattle Central, even when I failed math class. He helped me get a tutor and study, and I passed the class with a 3.5! 

Jeff is my number one supporter through the good and the bad, and he’s incredibly relatable. With his help, I finally got to walk at graduation with my Associate’s in Business! I want to continue serving on SEA’s Student Advisory Board. I’d like to attend UW Foster School of Business.

 

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