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Paying It Forward

Growing up in a low-income neighborhood in Los Angeles, Andy, the son of Salvadorean immigrants, was first introduced to Fulfillment Fund through our College Access Program. This meant that while he was in high school, he had access to our college counselors and lessons, and was eligible to apply for a Fulfillment Fund scholarship. Andy excelled in school, put together strong college applications, and was accepted to almost everywhere he applied. 

When considering his options, Andy focused on schools that could offer substantial financial aid packages, ultimately accepting Georgetown’s admission offer in part due to their commitment to meeting his financial need. Andy also applied and received a Fulfillment Fund scholarship to use for books, supplies, travel, or any other expenses as he saw fit. 

“I knew that if I was going to get through college, especially with parents who did not speak English and did not understand the process, I would need a village to help me through,” says Andy.

He started at Georgetown in 2017. “I felt like an outsider my first year. I had a lot of self-doubt,” he recalls. But their program for first-generation students, coupled with Fulfillment Fund’s support through our College Success Program, helped him overcome this imposter syndrome and Georgetown began to feel like home. 

During his freshman year, tragedy struck. Andy’s mom had a heart attack, and his world turned upside down. “He withdrew from a class and told me he was considering dropping out of college entirely,” recalls Gus Najera, our College Success Program Director. It was hard for Andy to be away from his family while his mom was in the hospital. Gus encouraged Andy to stay enrolled, reminding him how hard he had worked to get there and how close he was to achieving his dreams. 

Andy then shared that he was struggling to stay afloat while working two jobs at school to make ends meet and help his family. Gus quickly reassured Andy that we were here to support him in any way we could and then got approval to access Fulfillment Fund’s emergency student aid account. With this philanthropically-supported funding, Andy received additional funding, allowing him to focus on school. In a recent conversation with our Board members, Andy shared that Gus was there for him when he really needed someone and helped him stay connected to his goals.

Grateful for all the support he received, he was inspired to “pay it forward” and began mentoring other students. He also pursued a leadership position on the Student Board at Georgetown, where he began developing additional programming, including financial literacy, professional development, wellness, and intramural opportunities for first-generation students like him. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit during his junior year, Andy was undaunted, even helping create a Learn from Home grant program, recognizing that it would be difficult for many low-income students to attend college virtually without supplemental resources. “Hundreds of students used the grant to buy monitors, keyboards, desks, chairs, lamps, you name it,” he says.

Andy graduated from Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 2021, but his experience with Fulfillment Fund did not end there. He landed a job right out of college at UBS Wealth Management in Downtown LA after interning with another branch of the company while in college. Now working 15 minutes away from where he grew up, Andy wanted to continue serving students like him, strengthening the low-income communities in Los Angeles like the one he grew up in. 

“There’s still going to be kids like me with so much potential but feeling trapped in the system,” he says. Right away Andy volunteered to participate in UBS’s Elevator Pitch program, which was launched by a Fulfillment Fund volunteer and helps students learn how to talk about themselves and their goals. Through this, he happened to meet Wendy Spinner, a UBS Vice President and Chair of Fulfillment Fund’s Board of Directors. Andy introduced himself as one of our alumni, and since then Wendy has taken him under her wing, helping him leverage his lived experience and accomplishments to help others. 

Andy now leads information sessions for immigrant communities, helping them think about building wealth, learn about good debt versus bad, and how to save and stop living paycheck to paycheck. Having someone from within the community give these talks has become a powerful tool for change.

As Andy continues to stay connected to Fulfillment Fund and gets more involved with our Young Professionals Network, we are thrilled to continue partnering with him to achieve his dreams while giving back to the communities we serve.

Reflecting on his childhood as he would pass by all the tall buildings in Downtown LA and wonder about the lives of those people who worked there, he says, “Looking back at that kid, I feel comforted now. Everything turned out alright, just like my mom always said it would be. We’re going to be fine.”

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