Alcoa executives and Bottom Line students who attended the career event

Alcoa executives and Bottom Line students who attended the career event

Every year, January turns into “career month” for our college students at Bottom Line – New York. This month, there were a variety of career events for our nearly 800 college students to attend while they were home on break. In addition to the Go Far Forum, our signature career readiness event that is held annually, we offered a number of smaller career events at the offices of our corporate partners.

One of those events took place at Alcoa, a global leader in lightweight metals technology, engineering and manufacturing. Alcoa CFO Bill Oplinger, a Bottom Line – New York Board member, kicked off the event by reminding students that “where you start won’t be where you end up,” encouraging students to consider jobs that they might not originally have thought about and to stretch themselves professionally – a theme that his colleagues echoed throughout the day.

To learn more about one student’s impressions and takeaways, read Bottom Line student Shaquille Bent’s account of the day and how he plans to apply what he learned at the Alcoa career event going forward.

Name:  Shaquille Bent

College: SUNY Buffalo State

College Year: Senior

You’ve been to a few career events with Bottom Line now – how did this one compare to past ones you’ve attended?

This one with Alcoa was extraordinary. In a way, it was more hands-on because we got to interact one-on-one with senior executives at Alcoa from very different departments and hear about their career path. It was unique because I got personal feedback on things that I did well and things that I can improve on during that one-on-one career coaching.

Shaq receiving one-on-one career coaching from one of our Alcoa volunteers

Shaq receiving one-on-one career coaching from one of our Alcoa volunteers

What were some of your favorite parts of the career event at Alcoa?

I did research before the event because I had not previously heard of Alcoa. So, it was great to learn more about a company that I didn’t know about before. I really enjoyed hearing about people’s career paths, and I learned that what you study in college does not necessarily determine what type of job you get. My favorite part was the one-on-one conversation with Guru (an Alcoa employee), because he had a similar career path to the one I want. He studied mechanical engineering; I’m studying industrial technology. He also has a MBA, and I’m interested in obtaining one too.

What was the most intimidating or most challenging part of the event for you?

I don’t feel like there was a really intimidating part because Bottom Line has helped me really prepare for events like these. If I were still a freshman, I probably would have been much shyer and not known how to interact with everyone. I definitely wanted to make a good impression on the Alcoa executives, though!

What were some of your key takeaways?

First, I remember Sue (another volunteer from Alcoa) saying how important it was to “make sure you stretch yourself and go after all opportunities.” Guru said the same thing – to look into opportunities outside of the state where you live, to be flexible, to take risks, and do things out of the ordinary. All of the Alcoa employees that we met with have achieved professional success; they inspired me to want the same for myself.

Second, Daniel from Alcoa said that you need to find mentors and keep relationships alive. That was really important for me too. I feel like I’ve started to do that, but I’ve struggled with how to keep the relationship alive. They gave us some specific examples for what to do, like sending an email every now and then just to check in, so that you can build “a repository of advocates” as Daniel said.

What types of careers are you considering, and how did this event help you prepare for them?

I’m thinking long-term about becoming a project director or project manager. Right out of college, I think I want to be an analyst somewhere and gain experience in the business world. I can then interact with professionals as well as other project managers and learn from them. Down the line, I also want an MBA.

This event helped me prepare for that by learning about other successful business professionals’ career paths. They shared their stories about how they got to where they are. They all had very different paths, so I realized that you have to be open to all opportunities because you never know where they might lead.

Any advice for students who are graduating from college soon and starting to make plans for their careers?

One thing that I’ve learned throughout my college career is that you have to network. Networking can open up a whole range of opportunities that you never thought existed.

You also have to find mentors and keep the relationship alive. You can learn a lot from mentors because they have lots of experience and the knowledge that they share with you can help you find a career.

In the middle of the semester, during midterms when stress levels are rising, students need a little extra fun. Campus socials are a way for Bottom Line students to meet up with each other and their counselors and build community, while taking a breather from the academic demands of the semester. Counselors plan an activity ranging from arts and crafts to trivia and bingo nights, often accompanied with food and music.

The Fall semester’s Crafty Campus Social at UMass Dartmouth was a great success with a turnout of about forty students—mostly first and second years, who were excited to hang out with friends, meet new people, and speak to a few upperclassmen who are always happy to share their experiences and provide insider advice.

Students put their artistic skills to work, decorating wooden initials and inspirational words with paint, glitter, rhinestones, and stickers to hang on their doors or keep at their desks.


Students display their artwork during a campus social.

Alejandro Lopez is a Sophomore and a Bottom Line Student Ambassador at UMass Dartmouth. He helped to plan the event, and was pleased with outcome: “Our campus social was a great experience—it was good to see happy familiar faces full of excitement and to see the underclassmen’s eagerness to decorate their initials. Overall, Bottom Line socials are a great opportunity to meet other students who are a part of the organization, to gain perspective, and to learn about where everyone is from.”

Kimberly, a freshman studying Political Science had the following to say: “The social was a great experience. Not only did we get to show our creative talents, we also got to meet amazing people who share UMassD pride. These socials are important because they unite Bottom Line students in a positive atmosphere.”

Each semester, counselors face the challenge of taking the social to the next level. The Crafty Campus Social may be hard to beat next semester, but we have some great ideas in the works.  Spoiler alert—it may involve making homemade ice-cream outside, if the sun is shining!

Written by Success Counselor Erin O’Donnell

As the fall semester comes to a close, Bottom Line-New York counselors are finishing up their final round of on-campus meetings to help students prepare for their finals. Read below for an account of the process and what it means to our staff and our students from one of our Success counselors, Courtney Ng:

“How are you?” I ask Kelly. Those three words, as common as they may be in daily life, mean something to our students. They know that when we ask them, we ask earnestly, seeking to help.

“Overwhelmed,” she answers, “there’s just so much to do.”

Her response is why I’m there. For the past three weeks, Bottom Line-New York counselors have been traveling to campuses all across the State to help students develop a solid plan to prepare for their upcoming final exams, papers, and projects. For our students, finals are the last opportunity to give their grades a boost. But finals prep, like all of the services we provide students, is important for a larger purpose – it’s an opportunity to help students strengthen the skills and traits they can carry with them long into the future.

A color-coded finals prep calendar

A color-coded finals prep calendar

In a finals prep meeting, we guide students through creating a calendar to map out their plans to prepare for finals. On a basic level, the act of calendaring when finals will take place helps students think about managing their time. Realizing they have three finals in two days triggers them to think about when they will have time to study and to consider starting to study sooner, if not right away. The meeting also challenges them to think about how they will study, taking into consideration the practices that have or have not been useful throughout the semester. For example, we often talk to students about how reading over notes is a passive form of studying, whereas making a study guide that synthesizes key ideas and facts is an active way to internalize information.

For some students, finals prep is a prime opportunity to talk about using their resources   and seeking out help when they need it. We guide them to this realization by asking specific questions about their finals: what topics will be on exams, how comfortable they feel with the material, and whether they understand why they might not have performed well previously in the semester. If they are unsure of the answers, we nudge them. Ask your professors. Sign up for tutoring. Make an appointment at the writing center. Where can you get the help you need? When will you get it? In asking these questions, we challenge students to take responsibility for their own success and remind them that if they struggle, they don’t have to do so alone. We wish for students to walk away with more than a colorful roadmap for finals prep, but with the skills and confidence to guide them through the numerous obstacles to come later in life.

At the end of that 45-minute planning session, I often ask students how they feel now that they have a plan. Relieved, some say, that they now know what they need to do. Scared, say others, that things won’t go according to plan. You’re right, I tell them, they probably won’t.

In that moment, finals prep opens a conversation about a skill we value deeply at Bottom Line-New York: flexibility. We know that students won’t walk away and follow their plans to a tee. We know that distractions will arise and students will fall off track. This reality, I reassure them, is an opportunity to embrace a valuable life lesson, that even the best laid plans have to be reworked at some point. And when they do, when you need help, we are at the other end of the phone, ready to ask those same three words.


Rebeca, Worcester State University, ’16

My name is Rebeca and I live in Worcester, Massachusetts with my mom, brother, and two sisters. I grew up in a loving home with a mom who worked long hours in order to ensure we had everything we needed. I remember when we were younger she would get us ready for school before the sun was up and drop us off at my aunt’s house so that she could get to work.

My mom worked hard and made it her mission in life to make sure her children would have the opportunities she didn’t. 

When I was 12 my mom got engaged and together they started planning a future for our family. Our plan was to move to Connecticut and buy a house. My mom would get married and we would be one big happy family. She worked hard as a manager at McDonalds and with two incomes, the future looked bright. But when I was 13 everything we had planned fell apart on us. My mom was in a terrible car accident where she sustained serious injuries. She had been driving with her fiancé who did not survive.

My world was turned upside down. My mom needed around the clock care and couldn’t do anything on her own. We eventually had to move out of my childhood home. With the cost of medical bills and without my mom working we could no longer afford to make the rent payments. This was when we decided to move to Worcester to be closer to family. My mom eventually recovered and was able to return to work. Despite all of the challenges we had gone through, she still hoped for the very best for us and would constantly remind us of the importance of getting a good education. It was her mission to at least see us graduate from high school, something she wasn’t able to do.

My mom’s strength and endurance during this difficult time encouraged me to focus on my own future and my determination to go to college so that I could help support my family.

I sought out Bottom Line’s help when I was in high school because I knew I wanted to go to college, but didn’t know how to get there. I met with my guidance counselor at school, but I knew I would need more individualized support. My Bottom Line counselor, Ginette helped me with the college process throughout the year, and I grew to trust her opinion a lot. Ginette helped me navigate some pretty tough decisions and guided me towards the a financially responsible option. I decided to attend Quinsigamond Community College, and in May 2013, I graduated with an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education. Bottom Line then helped me transfer to Worcester State University where I am currently pursuing my Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Visual and Performing Arts.

Transferring to Worcester State University was not as easy of a transition as I thought it would be. My counselor, Kira, helped me prepare for this transition and encouraged me to visit the school and learn where all of my classes were so I wouldn’t get lost on the first day. It was difficult balancing my time with studying, friends, and work. Things didn’t come as naturally for me as they did when I was at community college. I felt lonely and overwhelmed. I went from a smaller community college where I knew my classmates to a larger school where I didn’t feel like I knew anyone, but Kira helped introduce me to other Bottom Line students at my school. Kira and Bottom Line were always available to answer my questions and made me feel like I had a strong support network. They also sent care packages with snacks, a gift and a card to say something along the lines of ‘hang in there, you can do it!’ The care package always seems to come right when it’s needed the most.

This past spring semester was particularly difficult. Towards the end of the semester, life at home was extremely complicated and it began to affect my classes. It seemed like one bad thing was happening after another. Our family was facing some financial challenges and the electricity was turned off at my house for a couple of weeks. Then, in the midst of this darkness our house was robbed and my favorite camera was stolen. I remember feeling very unsafe at home and overwhelmed by my coursework. I felt on edge and remember waking up throughout the night startled by noises. Kira was the first person I reached out to when this had happened. It was difficult to focus on my classes after this and I wanted to withdraw from a challenging class, but Kira wouldn’t let me. She told me that it was only a few more weeks until that semester was over, and that I could make it through. Looking back, I’m glad Kira made me stick with it and I received a C+. I am very proud of the C+ because I thought I was going to fail.

With Bottom Line’s support I was able to keep focused on my goals and learn how to balance what I was experiencing in my personal life with my schoolwork.

In addition to helping me with classes and financial aid, Bottom Line helped me apply to a service trip in Nicaragua, which was an experience that helped open up the world to me and made me realize how important education is to understanding other cultures. While I was in Nicaragua, I was able to gain hands-on experience working with children teaching English, working at a clinic and teaching pre-school. I realized how much I love to help others learn and challenge myself to see things through another person’s perspective.

Growing up, my Mom’s goal for all of us was to make sure we finished high school so that we would have access to better opportunities than she did. With Bottom Line’s support I am two years away from being the first in my family to graduate from college. When I walk across the stage to accept my diploma, I will be accepting it on behalf of my family, my community and generations to come.

Having a college degree is an incredible opportunity, but Bottom Line has taught me that it is also a responsibility. I want to be an educator so that I can help make it a little bit easier for the next generation. I recognize the impotent role education has played in my life and I know that I have a responsibility to those who will come after me. Thank you to my family, friends and Bottom Line who have made it possible for me to pursue a brighter future for my community.

This speech was given at the 6th Annual Get In, Graduate and Go Far Reception in October, 2014.

michele Pats

Bottom Line volunteer Michele Scavongelli receives “Patriots Difference Maker of the Week” award.

Bottom Line Massachusetts,  is celebrating education volunteerism with the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.

The Patriots are honoring Bottom Line volunteer Michele Scavongelli as their “Patriots Difference Maker of the Week.” She was recognized at a Julie’s Family Learning Program event on October 1.

For the week of Sept. 28, the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation is working in cooperation with Bottom Line Massachusetts, Boston Partners in Education, and Science Club for Girls to highlight dedicated volunteers and promote the importance of their efforts. The overarching theme of the week is empowerment through education.

Education volunteers are an important driver in helping end the cycle of poverty. First-generation students have less support than their higher-income peers to get into and through college. The Patriots and Bottom Line know that the more support children receive from the start, the better chance they have at reaching the end zone – college graduation.

Bottom Line this year celebrated the college graduation of its 1,000th student, and improved the overall graduation rate of Bottom Line students to 78 percent, well above the national average.

In addition to volunteering with Bottom Line, including serving on its Board of Directors, Michele is a mother of seven, an attorney and child-empowered legal advocate. Michele has raised over $50,000 as part of the Bottom Line Boston Marathon team – funds that ensure that first-generation, low-income students from the City of Boston have an opportunity to go to college. In fact, one in four college-bound seniors from the City of Boston receive support from Bottom Line during the college application process, throughout college or both.

She is a firm believer that her volunteerism is helping disadvantaged students realize the dream of earning a college degree.

“I am deeply committed to education and equality, and believe that education can help disadvantaged students transform their lives, achieve great things, and help lift them and future generations out of poverty,” Michele said.

Michele has also mentored countless Bottom Line students by helping with resume building, conducting mock interviews and participating in student roundtable discussions. She is selfless with her time and talents, and has also given pro-bono legal service to Bottom Line.

She also volunteers her time to the Youth Advocacy Foundation, and specifically The Education/Law Project, also known as Ed Law Project, working to ensure that Massachusetts’ highest risk children stay in school.

Throughout the football season, the Celebrate Volunteerism initiative will share the stories of dedicated volunteers, build awareness, and identify and educate others about volunteer opportunities.

Written by Elevate Communications

Since the start of the school year, our Success Counselors have traveled to 20 campuses across Massachusetts to meet one-on-one with nearly 2,000 college Bottom Line college students. In meeting with students, counselors discuss everything from adjusting to a new roommate, to reading a syllabus, to resolving any lingering financial aid issues.

Erin O’Donnell, a first-year Success Counselor, reflects on a busy month of the school year.

photoWhich colleges do you work with?

Suffolk, UMass Boston, UMass Dartmouth

What types of meetings have you been having on campus?

So far, meetings have focused on getting to know my first year students better and making sure they are adjusting well to a new environment, a new way of learning, and a new more independent lifestyle. With my first year students, meetings are often centered on connecting them to resources on campus, discussing organization tips and academic goals, as well as resolving outstanding bill issues and any other concerns they have. Meetings with second years cover a broad range of topics, including guidance in choosing a major, help with resumes and internship applications, assisting students with self-advocacy whether it is to reinstate scholarships, financial aid verification work for students who have yet to receive an award, transfer advising, and mapping out the rest of their undergraduate career in order to meet requirements to graduate On time.

Why do you think it is important to meet with in person and on campus?

Meeting on campus is a great way to experience a part of our students’ academic environments. The advice we give is all the more pertinent if it can be based on a personal, trusting relationship that develops over time, rather than a voice over the phone or email exchange.  In addition, being on campus makes it as simple as possible for students to meet with us without inconveniencing them with a commute, as many of our students are working a lot in addition being full-time undergrads, or currently live on campus a ways from Boston (in the case of UMass Dartmouth).

What do you like most about being a Success Counselor?

The best part about being a Success Counselor is that you get to connect with a diverse group of young adults who are striving to take advantage of the opportunities afforded to them.  Many have inspiring stories, many grew up in a different country, and many are still learning English. To be able to assist these students with realizing their dream of graduating from college, and being the first to do so in their family, is a huge privilege.




Bottom Line students at The Hanover Insurance Group campus

Bottom Line hosted its annual Success Send-Offs in Worcester and Boston earlier this month. More than 300 students attended these events to celebrate the start of their college careers with Bottom Line.

In Worcester, students gathered at The Hanover Insurance Group campus where Vice President and COO of Business Insurance, Gayle Falvey addressed the group and acknowledged their tremendous accomplishment.

In Boston, students gathered at the Hill Holliday office in downtown Boston. The event kicked off with an address from Ruthanne Russell, a Salem State University alumna and Chief Human Resources Officer of Hill Holliday. Students also received encouraging words from Landon Dickey, Education Advisor to Mayor Walsh.

Students at both Send-Offs mingled and networked with their peers and Bottom Line college counselors, and discussed the anticipation of their freshman year, as they chanted their colleges’ and universities’ cheers. Both evenings ended with a video address from Senator Elizabeth Warren. She encouraged and congratulated Bottom Life staff, counselors and students.


Bottom Line Success Counselors at Worcester’s Success Send-Off. (Photo Credit Amanda Luisa Goodale)

Students at the Success Send-Off will be attending one of Bottom Line’s twenty target colleges in the fall, they will continue to receive Bottom Line support, for up to six years or until they graduate through Bottom Line’s College Success Program. With Bottom Line support these students are about twice as likely to graduate than their low-income peers. Eighty-four percent of Bottom Line’s most recent college class graduated within six years, more than double the graduation rate for low-income students nationwide.



This year, Bottom Line-New York placed 50 of our college students in summer internships at a variety of corporate and non-profit partners. Internships provide a unique opportunity for our students to develop professional skills and build their professional networks. All of the internships were paid or subsidized by generous funders. We’re so grateful to each of the companies and organizations that made this possible, including: BRIC, Children’s Law Center, Citizen Schools, The Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, Community Voices Heard, Hot Bread Kitchen, iMentor, The Innocence Project, The Jed Foundation, The Jewish Museum, JUMA Ventures, Methodist Hospital, New Teacher Center, Partnership for After School Education (PASE), People.Co, Safe Horizon, Sapient, Start Elevator, and Viacom.

Below, Kassandra Rosales, a rising third-year student at SUNY Albany, explains what she did this summer and what she learned from her time at Sapient, one of Bottom Line’s corporate partners.

Kassandra 1

Kassandra Rosales interned at Sapient, one of Bottom Line’s corporate partners.

Name:  Kassandra Rosales

College: SUNY Albany

College Year: Third

Tell us about Sapient and what you worked on there this summer:

Sapient is a consulting firm that works with other companies like tech companies, retail companies, car companies, banks, etc. They help them develop strategies in order to improve their company’s performance – now or 5 years from now.

For my first project, I worked on the finance team. I was inputting data from media plans, contracts and invoices into “wrap-up sheets” for Sapient’s clients. This allowed Sapient to keep track of how much they were paid and how much they spent for each client. If Sapient used less than the amount in the contract, the company could decide if they wanted that balance back or to use it for another project.

For my second project, I worked in the talent department. I used their talent databases to input information about each candidate and feedback from any interviews. I also did research to find recruiting agencies that focused on the specific careers that Sapient was looking to hire for.

What were the 2-3 skills that were most important for your work this summer?

First, I needed communication skills. There were a lot of things that were new to me so I had to communicate with my supervisor if I didn’t understand something or wanted to be sure that I was doing the work correctly. We had meetings every few days to check in on my progress.

Second, I became a lot more familiar with Excel. Most of my work was done on Excel, and I didn’t have a lot of experience with it before this internship.

Third, I needed researching skills. I learned a lot about where to look, the importance of knowing what specifically I’m looking for, and how to pull out key information when doing research.

What was the best part of your time at Sapient? Biggest challenge you faced?

I really enjoyed the finance work and meeting the employees at Sapient. There were all really nice and I loved hearing about how they got to where they are. For instance, maybe they majored in something totally different than what they do at Sapient. I also enjoyed being in a corporate environment because I’ve worked in schools and non-profits before.

My biggest challenge was a specific assignment – the research project. I hadn’t done a lot of research prior to this job and wanted to make sure that I was completing the project correctly. I spoke with Angela, my manager, before I started the work and she helped me break it down and set up a spreadsheet to organize the information that I was finding. Then I would check-in a few times during the project to make sure I was on the right track. Another Bottom Line intern was doing similar work, so I was able to talk to her as well.

If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would spend more time getting to know people on different teams at Sapient and learn more about what they do. I feel like I didn’t network as much as I wanted to and so I’d do that more next time around.

Any advice for students who are starting to think about internships for next summer?

Definitely do research on the companies that you would like to intern for, talk to peers who might know more about the companies, and practice your communication and Excel skills now. And, when you’re looking into jobs, be open-minded and flexible.

Nearly 100% of Bottom Line high school seniors from Boston and Worcester have been accepted to college and more than two-thirds of these students will be attending one of our Success colleges.

In the interview below, Tommy Suen, a current senior at the John D. O’Bryant High School in Boston, explains how his Bottom Line counselor, Laura, helped him get into college and why he’s looking forward to having Bottom Line’s support once he starts college in the fall.


Tommy and his Bottom Line Counselor, Laura

Name: Tommy Suen
High School: John D. O’Bryant
College Attending: Boston University

Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My older brother was a Bottom Line student, so from the time I was a freshman in high school he kept telling me that I had to sign up for Bottom Line. He would say, “if it weren’t for Bottom Line, I never would have gotten into college,” so I always knew how important it would be to have Bottom Line’s help applying to college. I also knew I wouldn’t have a lot of help navigating the application process at home. My mom really wanted me to go to college, but she had never been through the process before.

Can you describe how your Bottom Line counselor, Laura, supported you this year?

Laura was a huge help! It made a huge difference to be able to have individualized support throughout the application process. For a long time, I thought that I was Laura’s only student. I was shocked to learn that she was actually working with fifty other students like me; she was just always available to help me.

When I first started the college application process I struggled a lot with organization. There are so many things to remember and I was having a particularly hard time writing my college essay. Laura really helped me organize my thoughts and after several drafts I emerged with a college essay I was really proud of. She also helped me analyze my financial aid award letters and helped me choose a school that was both affordable and a good fit. Laura always went above and beyond, she even helped me get the part-time job I have working at Bottom Line’s front desk. I have worked at Bottom Line for a year, and I have noticed that all of the counselors really go above and beyond to help support students.

May 1st was College Decision Day. Where will you be attending college next year? How did you feel when you found out you got into college?

I applied to nine colleges and I was so nervous that I wouldn’t get in anywhere. I was so excited and relieved when I found out that I had been accepted to my first choice, Boston University and it would be affordable for me to go there. It was so rewarding to have all of my hard work from high school pay off in that moment.

That must be a relief! How are you and your family feeling about college now?

I am the youngest in my family and my mom worried a lot about whether or not I would get into college. She was so proud of me when she found out I had been accepted to Boston University that she dropped everything she was doing and took me out to eat in order to celebrate. Both of my brothers went to Boston University, so they are very excited to have the legacy carried on.

Are you excited about staying connected to Bottom Line? What are you looking forward to the most next year?

Yes! I am looking forward to staying connected to Bottom Line and having a counselor visit me on campus. Living away from home for the first time and having to manage my own schedule is going to be a huge transition. I am pretty nervous about balancing everything next year, but it makes me feel better knowing that Bottom Line will continue to be there for me. I am really looking forward to meeting new people on campus and taking classes in business, accounting and finance.

What would you tell a high school student who is just starting the college application process with Bottom Line?

Don’t take your Bottom Line counselor for granted. Listen to your counselor’s advice and be prepared to edit your college essay several times. Oh, also, your Bottom Line counselor works with 49 other students, but you would never know it.


For the third straight year, we are proud to announce that 100% of Bottom Line-New York’s high school students have been accepted to college. The path from college application to acceptance is never easy to navigate, and so our full-time counselors met one-on-one with almost 300 high school seniors this year to help them every step of the way. Below, Azza Awad, a current senior at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, explains how her Bottom Line counselor Deborah helped her throughout the entire process.

Azza and her Bottom Line-New York counselor Deborah after she decided to attend NYU next fall.

Azza and her Bottom Line-New York counselor Deborah announcing that she plans to attend NYU next fall.


Name:  Azza Awad

High School: Clara Barton High School

Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My parents left everything in Sudan to come to the U.S., invest in my education, and give me a better future than we would ever have back in Sudan. I joined Bottom Line because I needed someone who could help me with the college application process. Knowing that it would be the most stressful and difficult time of my high school career, I needed someone to guide me, and there was no one at home who had been through it before.

Can you describe how your Bottom Line counselor Deborah supported you this year?

The first thing Deborah did was to help me zero in on a collection of colleges that fit my personality and academic interests. Then we made sure that I had some reach schools, some colleges that I was likely to get in, and some schools that were a shoe-in on my list. Bottom Line also helped me write not only my main college essay, but all the other supplemental essays for schools that required them.

Deborah also took me step by step through my Private School, CUNY, and SUNY applications, helping me to highlight the best version of myself so that colleges could see why I’m a strong candidate. The opportunity to have not just my Bottom Line counselor, but also other counselors in the office check over my applications made me feel special, like I had a support system that really cared.

When it came time for paying for college, Bottom Line helped me with all the paperwork required for financial aid. It was really confusing! They asked about my parents’ income, tax returns, and other financial documents that I wasn’t aware of. Having someone there to help me through it made all the difference!

Azza speaking at the Bottom Line-New York Spring Reception on May 7, 2014.

Azza speaking at the Bottom Line-New York Spring Reception on May 7, 2014.

May 1st was College Decision Day. Where will you be attending college next year?

This fall, I’m going to NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering and will major in Computer Engineering. I’m really excited because I want to be a computer programmer when I grow up. Also, I won’t be paying a dime! I got a full scholarship, thanks to Deborah.

That must be a relief! How are you and your family feeling about college now?

My family feels relieved because this pressure has been lifted. They don’t have to worry about their daughter getting a quality education, and they don’t have to worry about the financial burden that most students have. My father is a taxi driver, and recently whenever he has customers and a conversation comes up, he always tells them how proud he is of me getting into NYU. Getting into NYU Poly, with the help of Bottom Line, is a huge accomplishment for me and my family and will give us all a brighter future.