When I started 9th grade, I was lost. Some of my friends were going down a rough path and didn’t want anything to do with school.
No one in my family has ever left for college: If you leave your parents’ house, it’s because you get married or you start working.
My parents have always been there for me, but they come from rural areas and their main priority is survival. My mother is a nanny and housekeeper, and my father is a server at a restaurant. My mom didn’t even go to middle school.
9th grade was the year the Fulfillment Fund started coming into my classrooms. The Fulfillment Fund laid out exactly the steps I needed to take to get to college. They explained what classes to take to be college-eligible, what grades to get, the importance of extra-curricular activities, and what scholarships and financial aid programs are out there. It all made me realize I needed to step up my game.
That was the year the Fulfillment Fund brought me to the first college campus I ever set foot on—Loyola Marymount University. It was amazing!
Later, I heard the Fulfillment Fund was taking students on an overnight trip to visit colleges, I asked, “How much will I have to pay for this?” They told me it was completely free, and I couldn’t believe it! On the overnight college visits, I was surrounded by encouragement. All the students on the trip believed that each of us would make it to college even though we don’t have anyone guiding us but the Fulfillment Fund. We stayed in dorms and got to hang out with first-generation college students. I realized I aspired to be like them, and the Fulfillment Fund would help me get there.
When I came back, I was so excited about college. I made a promise that I would put forth everything I have to make it there.
By the beginning of my senior year, the Fulfillment Fund had taken me to visit 30 colleges. I decided to apply to 12 of them, including UC Berkeley and University of San Francisco.
The Fulfillment Fund staff held my hand throughout the whole college and financial aid application process. I was so thankful because I didn’t even know how to start an application. My college counselor, Ms. Joy, reviewed my personal statement ten times until it was perfect. I was so grateful for Ms. Joy. I could never have imagined finding someone who was so willing to put that much time into my application. At my high school, adults didn’t really remember your name after you talk to them, but the Fulfillment Fund staff really takes the time to get to know you as an individual.
My dad always tells me, “having you as my daughter is what I’m most proud of. It doesn’t matter what you do, I’ll always be proud of you. But it makes me even prouder to be able to say ‘my daughter, my little girl, is going to go to college.’”
I also try to use what I’ve learned from the Fulfillment Fund to help other students. I started a peer mentoring program at my high school, which was inspired by the Fulfillment Fund’s mentoring program.
We paired freshmen who were failing their classes with upperclassmen who are really involved in the Fulfillment Fund. We talk to the freshmen about college and ask them to think about their future. We get ideas from the Fulfillment Fund College Access Program lessons. Some students who were barely passing before have already brought up their grades, and they told their teachers it was because their upperclassmen mentors believed in them and encouraged them.
All the peer mentors feel great—we feel like we’re the Fulfillment Fund, helping and guiding younger students. The juniors are planning to continue and expand the program next year, and it all came to be because the Fulfillment Fund motivated and helped us so much.
Because I talk about college so much, my 13-year-old sister is already so motivated to go to college. For her, it’s not if she’ll go to college, it’s when and where she’ll go to college. She gets so excited when I tell her about different colleges and universities I’ve visited and learned about through the Fulfillment Fund.
Without the Fulfillment Fund, I think I would have settled for something less than what I now know I can achieve. The Fulfillment Fund has helped me grow and mature—as a person and as a student.
Someday, I want to come back as a Fulfillment Fund mentor so I can inspire other kids like me.
My Fulfillment Fund experience has honestly made me who I am today. The Fulfillment Fund told me, “Yes, you can do it!” Now I can walk the stage at graduation and be the first in my family to go to college because the Fulfillment Fund believed in me so much.
Jenny began attending the University of California, Santa Cruz in fall 2013.