We are more than just a statistic. How did we get here?

Kristina Aganova

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When I was seven years old my mother decided to move our family of two from Russia to the United States of America. In a post-communist society, there was very little room for advancement in the workforce, and job opportunities were very scarce for Jewish individuals. My mother moved our family here with the intention to establish a better quality of life. A better quality of life began with a better quality education.

I began second grade with no language, no friends, and I was completely clueless of my surroundings. I struggled through school and even on various occasions refused to go. However, my mother constantly reminded me that without an education, my opportunities in the future would not be so vast. Between ESL classes, after-school programs, and summer school I was finally able to learn English, raise my grades, make new friends, and enjoy school.

I am currently a full-time Queens College Student, majoring in Biology. Fall 2015 will be the beginning of my Sophomore year. After graduating Queens College, I plan to further continue my studies practicing dentistry.

I do qualify for financial aid. However, every semester I buy expensive science textbooks worth $100 to $250 (per book). To get to campus I take a bus and a train. I also buy monthly-unlimited metro cards for $116.50. I work only a few hours a week because I am constantly studying for exams or volunteering.

 

Katrina Glowatz

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I wasn’t the perfect student in high school. Most days, after my parents would drop me off, I would sneak off with a friend or two and take the train somewhere far away from school. I would come home the same time school let out, find the house-phone, take it off the hook,  and hide it to ensure that if the school called about my absence, my parents would not find out about it. I had cutting class down to a science. But why would I go through so much trouble like that? Why not just go to school? Honestly the answer was this: I was bored. The public high school I went to wasn’t a bad school, the teachers were kind and the student body got along well with one another. My grades were always good too, mostly all B+’s and A’s. But there was a certain lackluster in the classroom, where I’d mostly sit in the back and doodle in my notebook while my teacher would pop in “Romeo & Juliet” in the VHS player, so we could learn about Shakespeare.

When it came to applying to college, I was completely lost. I felt so unprepared. FAFSA? CUNY? SUNY? I was clueless. So, I ended up attending community college for two years, basically just to fill the time and make my parents happy. I was taking random classes like: The Natural History of Long Island, and The History of Rock And Roll. I still had no clue what I was doing, I was just a body in a seat, spending money.

Eventually, I became frustrated with my complacency and decided that if I wanted to succeed in this society, I needed AT LEAST a Bachelor’s degree. So, I applied to Queens College, applied for FAFSA (which I was denied), picked a subject I liked (English) and majored in it. And here I am. I am on the path to graduate by this coming Fall semester which I am excited about, but also really nervous because that means I must find a job in order for me to pay back the $20,000 + I owe in student loans.

 

Kimberly Galeano

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Me and my son Adrian

I never thought I would make it to college. Growing up with dyslexia has had a severe impact on my education. School was a struggle, especially grade school. However, I learned how to overcome my reading disability during high school.

When I became a mom, I decided it was time for me to go back to school. Obtaining a college degree would not only affect and improve my future, but it would also improve my son’s future. Knowing this, I became more motivated to get a college degree.

My commute to school is usually around an hour and forty-five minutes everyday. I do qualify for financial aid each semester. I work about thirty hours a week, to support my son and I.

I am currently a Junior attending Queens College full-time and I am majoring in psychology. I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in Counselor Education. My goal is to be able to provide help to students who are struggling with school. Struggling with school is something I am familiar with and I believe I can relate to students who are lost in the school system.

 

Elena Danginis

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During my senior year in high school, I applied to colleges out of state because I wanted to have the full college experience. I felt I didn’t have a real high school experience, since my graduating class was only approximately 60 students. When I was accepted into my top choice, Penn State, I was absolutely thrilled. However, that dream crumbled before my eyes as I found out that I did not qualify for financial aid. I did not have any backup schools located in New York, so I began attending Queensborough Community College.

I wanted to major in Psychology, but unfortunately, at QCC that fell under Liberal Arts. I ended up enjoying my first year at Queensborough more than I had anticipated. In my third semester, I realized I wanted something different- I wanted to transfer to a four year college to obtain a higher degree.

In the Spring, I transferred to St. John’s University. I was able to receive half a scholarship, which made tuition a little more affordable (St. John’s is a private University.)  I felt that for me to attend a school with a tuition this high, I should love it… but I didn’t.

I decided quickly I wouldn’t be returning to St. John’s in the Fall. Deadlines had passed to apply to other schools, and at that point, I was able to go back to Queensborough as a readmitted student and complete my Associate’s Degree in Liberal Arts.

In the fall of 2014, I began attending Queens College to pursue my degree in Psychology. I had more than the amount of credits that could be transferred, which pushed my graduation date back.

I am currently coming into school Monday-Thursday and taking 19 credits. I work on the weekends at a test prep program, and I also babysit. I will be taking 3 courses in the summer to complete my Bachelor’s degree. Coming this Fall, I will be attending Long Island University Brooklyn for my Master’s in School Psychology. I have recently applied for a student loan for graduate school.

Kadlif-rashid Bactowal

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My Senior year in high school was mostly stress-free. With my college career on the horizon, I had already known where I was going to attend college and whether or not I would be receiving a scholarship or not. This was due to the fact that I was fortunate enough to attend a prestigious private high school in Brooklyn, Xaverian High School.

My high school ensured that each student, beginning as early as Junior year, received the right amount of college preparation and advised us on what to expect, and  provided us with the tools needed in order to eventually make it to college. So the time Senior year arrived, I was set.

All there was to do was wait for my acceptance letters from the college I had applied to. The curriculum at my high school was very effective in helping it’s students get all the information needed to get to college. I got in to each and every one of the schools that I had applied to.

Coming out of high school, I knew that I wanted to be a scientist/ doctor, but I also had other interests. My high school offered many extra-curricular activities and I took advantage of a number of them. I participated in different sports and was an active member of various clubs. I also was able to take college-level IB courses. This diverse background is what allowed me to get accepted to all the schools I applied to.

Now it was just a decision of where to go. Coming from a middle class family, my sister already in college, and my little brother just beginning school, money was tight in my family. So my decision of which college to attend became based on what would be financially better for my family.

I received four different types of scholarships from four different schools. I received one for sports, one for culinary arts, one for music, and one academic scholarship. The sports scholarship offered the least amount of money, but I would be able to attend Princeton. However, the down side is I would’ve had to practice every day doing the sport I picked, leaving little time for me to focus on becoming a doctor. The culinary school, Johnson and Wales, also offered me a scholarship and it seemed like a solid career path, since I do love to cook, but that would mean that I would have to leave my dream of becoming doctor behind. The music scholarship, much like the other scholarships, would also require me to abandon my dream of becoming a doctor.

I chose the academic scholarship, which allowed me to attend Arcadia University. Here, I was granted the opportunity to study abroad for a cheap price (which I did). After studying for 2 years at Arcadia, two unfortunate incidents occurred. First, I got into a car accident which caused me to fall behind in my classes which ultimately lowered my grades. Also, there was an error on my financial aid package which required me to pay for the college (I was receiving a full scholarship prior to this error and only paying for where I was staying at the time.) Due to these occurrences, I was forced to stop attending school.

After a year, I resumed my college career at LaGuardia Community College. I was able to receive financial aid, additional grants, and scholarships due to my excellent academic standing. After a year and a half, I graduated a Phi Theta Kappa with an Associate’s degree in Biology. After graduation, I applied to Queens College (my second choice) who chose me first. I also received a full financial aid package at Queens College not having to pay for my first year. This is my third semester at Queens College and I am getting ready to graduate. I am constantly on and off when it comes to working due to the intense classes in the Biology major.

 

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