Guest blog by 2017 Collegiate Directions (CDI) Scholar Darwin, American University Class of 2021
The college-going process was new to me and my family as both my parents were from Bolivia and I was born and raised in Spain for a while. I have two older siblings and a younger brother, and joining CDI made me the first in my family to graduate from college. There was so much we did not know about the whole process of first getting into school, and making it through to the end. My journey had a few tough events that would have certainly derailed my ability to finish school, but CDI was there for me.
I would say that from a young age I was an entrepreneur at heart. I even started a few businesses as a teenager. These experiences really seeded my interest in finance. I was really focused in high school and graduated with a strong GPA, but my first two years in college were very hard. I was a finance major at American University and was having a difficult time managing my schedule and keeping up with my classes. My CDI counselor kept encouraging me and shared some key strategies that were beginning to help when a major event happened in my sophomore year. My mom got sick and became paralyzed. She couldn’t work and money became tight at home. I was short on tuition and was not going to be able to sign up for classes. I worked hard that summer to save as much as I could, but I didn’t have enough and I didn’t know what I was going to do. It was hard for me, but I shared my situation with my CDI counselor who was so accommodating and such a calming force. She really took the time to understand me and my point of view. She was there to help me. CDI filled the gap in my tuition that enabled me to continue my studies. I was so thankful for the support. It really made all the difference—without CDI, I would not have completed college.
CDI also connected me with a career mentor who was in my field and shared my ethnic and cultural background. He was invaluable in helping prepare me for entering the workforce. He gave me advice on how to convert skills that were not part of my degree, skills that I developed on my own—my analytical entrepreneurial experience and programming language skills—into marketable skills that companies wanted. He helped me understand what employers were looking for so that I was better able to showcase my value. I landed offers at a few places, including KPMG and Fidelity. My mentor and I still keep in contact even though I graduated this past May.
CDI holds a special place in my heart. It is an amazing place. The personalized aspect is why I went to, stayed, and finished college. The support CDI gave me, the access to networking opportunities was it. There are kids out there who are smart, have entrepreneurial spirits just like me, but who will probably not go to college because it’s too confusing. I appreciate that CDI was there for me to fill the gap and to make sure that I went to a really good school that will break the socioeconomic imbalance in my family—That’s amazing! I will be forever thankful for CDI.
Collegiate Directions has developed innovative wellness and career programming for scholars, families, and practitioners in the Greater Washington region and is a partner of the Crimsonbridge Foundation. Crimsonbridge is dedicated to raising awareness about challenges facing today’s college students and impactful solutions that are transforming higher education. To learn more about Crimsonbridge’s College Success program, visit https://www.crimsonbridge.org/collegesuccess.