By: Kasandra, Fulfillment Fund alumna
My story is one that reflects the power of a support system. And a lot of this support came from the mentors and counselors, who through the Fulfillment Fund, watched and worked with me to make college a reality. It is why, through telling others about my story, not only do audiences learn about the struggle, but also the triumphs of my journey, and the many others who like me, were able to make the college experience a memorable and accessible reality. So much of my story was made possible with the support I received during high school. All throughout high school, the Fulfillment Fund provided help in searching and researching colleges, as well as helping me balance the academic responsibilities of my high school experience. One experiences I remember is when I attended various college visits, like UCLA, Cal Lutheran, the Northern California College trip, and Destination College. This was one of the few chances I got to visit a series of colleges, which gave me an idea as to what kind of demographic I was looking for in a college. As senior year passed, through their guidance, I submitted my application and the wait began.
Months later, I was about to open a letter I’d gotten from my first-choice college. I had spent countless hours researching and answering grueling application questions, and I was ready to find out if my hard work had paid off. Inside the letter was my answer – I had gotten accepted, and it was a happy and intense experience that I will always remember! I was so relieved and joyful about what was coming next.
Yet, it was also nerve-wracking. None of my friends would be going to school out of state, like me. This would be a brand new experience for not only myself, but also for my family. I felt bittersweet: I was so excited to go, but felt unprepared to leave my home. My family was extremely proud of me, but was also worried about the challenges that would come because I would be on my own, without the physical support of having them close by.
Yet this bittersweet feeling didn’t stop my excitement to go to Minnesota. After the many goodbyes, I set off to start a new journey.The only ones to witness this new start were my brother and father, who flew out with me to drop me off and help me settle into my dorm. Yet this process would become a repeated routine, that would evoke feelings of excitement to go back to college, and a deep sadness that I was leaving again. And as i grew so did my family, to the point where a shift in my family’s dynamic, since our relationship had changed through the physical distance that college imposed. This transition was never easy since homesickness is a state of mind that was always constant in the back of my mind. While Minnesota began to grow on me, the lack of being in a city and moving to a small town, with students that were not like me, made it difficult at times to connect. But thankfully, the Fulfillment Fund was there to support me during my time in college. They helped me make sure I kept my scholarship through semester check-ins, and were always constantly providing reminders to keep in touch should I have any questions. They also helped provide opportunities to connect with other Fulfillment Fund alumni once I was back in Los Angeles.
During my time at Gustavus Adolphus College I chose to be a History and English double major, and the best way to describe both fields is that they were engaging and critical. My classes expanded my critical thinking skills as I analyzed and challenged the works I was reading and studying. When I was reviewing materials for my senior thesis, my professors helped push me to analyze various perspectives, like challenging why the Vietnam War was depicted a certain way, or why the audience didn’t have access to second-generation stories. These kinds of questions helped guide my research focus: How do people tell stories, and why are immigration stories and second-generation stories so important?
It was through this project that I learned about the power and importance of voice. My struggles with homesickness, mental health, the feeling of disconnect, were reflected in the refugee or second-generation stories, who all talked about how difficult starting a new life could be. And yet more importantly how they learned to voice and depict their struggles in a way were we not only questioned the conventional perspective, but empathize more with the triumphs and journeys of these authors. And their works inspired me to see the value, in my story. To see how amazing it was that as a first generation, female student of color, I not expand my horizons, but I gained inspiration and worth from acknowledging the uniqueness of my story.
It is amazing to look back on all of the things that led me to this point in my life – a new college graduate with dreams of curating and continuing this work of understanding how to tell worthy stories.
To the current Fulfillment Fund students who are just starting college, I want to encourage each person to make sure that they do things that will make them remember their college experience fondly. When it comes to achieving your dreams, make sure to make them happen in ways that you can look back on and be proud. Having a journey be remembered this way is not only a way to mark how far one has traveled, but also how amazing your journey has been and will be.