Upward Bound students come from a variety of backgrounds and have faced both personal and academic challenges. Please take some time to read these inspirational interviews of a few UB students who have been part of the program over the years.
What dreams for your life and career do you have?
My dream is to start my own non-profit bakery/shelter specifically for neglected youth. I want to provide a loving home/shelter for individuals that are neglected, abandoned, or worse by their family, and help them find reassurance in themselves. I want to provide a space where these individuals can learn the skills that kids with able parents learned every day.
What obstacles are in the way to achieving those dreams?
To achieve this dream and life, I knew at a young age that I would need to get a high paying job to afford a non-profit. I honestly had no clue how much harder I would have to work just to survive, let alone be able to afford an education. My parents refused to sign FAFSA forms which would allow me to be able to afford college tuition, this caused a HUGE stressor as well as dealing with my own mental and physical health.
What resources have you had access to that have helped you overcome those obstacles? What role did the Upward Bound program play in your journey of education?
The above two questions are kind of hand-in-hand, for me. After joining Upward Bound in high school, education became a way for me to escape my poverty-stricken life. My family was constantly in and out of homelessness; I never had stability or support, and that had a huge impact on my education and mental physical well-being, I eventually left and “couch surfed” throughout high school.
Upward Bound gave me the opportunity to see that life wasn’t just what it seemed at home; it’s what you decide to make it. The Upward Bound Program, as well as the individuals working for the program, saved my life. Life became really difficult, and I felt like no one was there to help me. Then one day in English class, Aaron Gersonde came in to talk to the class about the Upward Bound Program. That was the first time I had hope for my future, and that was the first time I ever felt like someone else believed in me.
After graduating from Watauga High School in 2014, I was given the opportunity to work for Upward Bound on the Appalachian State University campus, and I continued working for them, as well as GEAR UP until the summer of 2016. I also worked for several fast-food restaurants and eventually began working as a waitress making pretty good money. During that time, I was also attending Caldwell Community College in Boone and working on my Associates Degree to transfer to a 4-year college.
When I needed a dependency override because my parents refused to sign my FAFSA forms to receive financial aid, the director of Upward Bound was there for me. I couldn’t tell you the amount of times someone working for that program impacted my life in some way.
What inspirational advice would I give to someone who is facing difficulty achieving his/her goals and dreams?
As a first-generation high school and community college graduate, I’ve already been blessed with an education greater than anything that I could have ever imagined. My advice would be to remember that you’re your biggest advocate and that education and knowledge are true power. Remember, there is no time limit on your goals and dreams unless you set one. It took me 4 years to finish an Associates Degree, but I did it. I had to take a medical leave of absence from school due to being diagnosed with a genetic and rare disease called Eagles Syndrome and needing surgery on my head/neck. I’ve since still had several undiagnosed and diagnosed medical conditions that on a daily basis make life harder to get through.
Believe in yourself and talk to your professors. I even convinced the dean of my department to create a new class so that I could receive credit for an internship (and I got paid!). I applied for Actuarial Internships that would help boost my resume and my skill set. My first internship was at the North Carolina Department of Insurance in Raleigh, NC. This was a great experience, and I got to learn a lot about Actuaries and work on some really cool projects. My second internship (currently still working for them) is with Voya Financial, and this company is absolutely amazing. I’m currently looking for Associate Actuarial positions for my upcoming graduation in December and hope for a position at Voya to open up.
General Info (what school are you currently attending, what's your major, and are there clubs or activities you'd like to include?)
Currently I’m attending North Carolina A&T State University (fully remote Economics program) and I LOVE it. It’s amazing, I’ve had outstanding grades and a current GPA of 3.81. I’m part of the Desse Mentor Program and enjoy competing in Data Competitions (such as the Duke DataFest). In my free time, I love hanging out with my princess Ari(a), she is a 5-year-old Labrador mix stray we adopted around 4 ½ years ago! My boyfriend of 5 years and I bought a beautiful house here in Boone after moving away to the Raleigh area for a few years. I’m currently studying for the Actuarial exams and working for Voya Financial while I finish my final two classes until my graduation in December!