By Nicole Portillo
Nicole Portillo is a junior at the University of Washington Tacoma Campus. A College Success Foundation alumna, she now works as a CSF Navigator, peer mentoring incoming CSF scholars. She also works as a sales advisor for Costco in Tacoma. In addition to the State Need Grant, Nicole receives financial aid through the UW Tacoma Undergrad Tuition Exemption and the College Bound Scholarship.
The State Need Grant has helped me overcome many obstacles in my life. Without the grant, I wouldn’t have been able to attend school, let alone be able to manage to pay for school.
I am a DACA recipient, which already creates many barriers when searching for scholarships because you must be a U.S. citizen to even be eligible, so I really don’t get much access to scholarships due to my status. My parents and loved ones have been my support to push through anything that comes up in my life, because every problem has a solution. The State Need Grant gives me the advantage to pursue my dreams, and provides a boost in life that everyone needs.
Being a College Success Foundation Navigator for the University of Washington Tacoma has made me understand that being a mentor is important. I help students handle experiences that I have been through. Being a Navigator has also been eye-opening because it has helped me realize new things that I haven’t noticed before – this time, I am the teacher being taught by students.
While managing homework, I also am currently taking on two jobs including the Navigator role. Being a busy bee has taught me to learn to adapt to new things quickly. Without the grant, I wouldn’t be able to manage to pay off school with just two jobs, let alone have to worry about my parents paying for my schooling. Being able to attend college is a big deal in my family because it will make me a first-generation graduate.
When finishing up school, I wish to have the support of my family members and my younger siblings. Since I am the oldest of five, with the youngest one being four years old, I hope to inspire or push all my siblings so they also can have the drive to become someone in life who made it. I want to be able to be there when it’s their turn to graduate and be in my position one day – able to choose what university they want to attend.
“There are many roles that I play in my life… but nothing is more important than my role of being a student”
There are many roles that I play in my life, like being a sister, daughter, sales advisor, and being a mentor, but nothing is more important than my role of being a student. The State Need Grant gives access and opportunities to those who don’t quite have that support they need financially, and rewards some students with abilities that may help them throughout their college, career and life.
Many students do not qualify for the State Need Grant, which should be changed because not enough have the access to a high-quality public education. Being undocumented has also been a big impact in my life because it puts me in a situation where I need to be aware of what I can do, and what steps I can take to change it when I’m in a setback, to continue on with my goal.
I know many people personally that would do anything to go back to school and finish a second diploma other than their high school diploma or GED. It’s not because they are lazy or not willing to go back to school, but because financially it’s just not possible. Being a part of the minority group, being Mexican, has taught me to educate myself. I do it just not for myself, but do it for the individuals who wish they were in school. Without the grant, I wouldn’t know what I would be doing today, let alone if I would have been able to stay in school and pursue my degree.
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