As a daughter of immigrants, I, like many, am the first in my family to have the opportunity to attend college. One of the many struggles faced by first-generation students is the lack of parental support in their education. Though many immigrant parents support the idea of their child going to college, due to the language barrier, many parents tend to take a step back from any involvement related to their student’s education.
As my senior year began approaching, knowing I wouldn’t have any help from my parents, I was dreading completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Luckily, I was able to grasp an understanding of the application after attending the financial aid night offered in my high school. It was finally October 1st the clock had just struck midnight and I rushed to the FAFSA page. Though the webpage crashed, after several attempts I successfully completed the FAFSA application alone at 2 am.
Excited and relieved that I had gotten through the application, I tweeted about my completion. Surprisingly, I received an overwhelming number of messages from peers asking for assistance. It began with my closest friend, Karen, I sat down with her Spanish-speaking parents and talked them through the importance as well as the process of FAFSA. Word quickly began to spread at school, and I ended up helping approximately 20 families complete the FAFSA form.
I quickly realized that the language barrier is much deeper than just my family, it negatively impacts a multitude of students throughout Collier County.
Until I head off to begin my own college success story in the spring of 2022 at The University of South Florida, I’ll be working at Champions For Learning to help recent graduates and current high school seniors complete the FAFSA. As part of this work, I’ll be helping to build a webpage of resources and step-by-step tutorials in English and Spanish. This work is part of a statewide initiative through the Florida College Access Network called Cash For College.