IMG_4354Applications have been sent, financial aid forms have been scrutinized, and now students are starting to see the benefits of the college application process. As Bottom Line Access students learn where they have been accepted to college, they can easily become overwhelmed by the possibilities. In an effort to help students feel confident about their college decisions, Bottom Line hosts an event called the College Expo which brings both high school Access students and college Success students together.

On March 15th, Bottom Line hosted the Second Annual College Expo at Suffolk Law School. This year, 19 colleges from the organization’s Success program were represented, and 130 Access students were able to get the scoop on their potential colleges. According to John D. O’Bryant High School senior Tommy Suen, learning more about financial aid from other students was most important.

“I’ve gotten financial aid letters, but I wanted a more realistic idea of the cost,” said Suen.

When it came to the reality of college, Salem State University sophomore Chantel Barrett-Pearson said that her perception of school changed once she arrived on campus. Barrett-Pearson participated in the Salem State University summer bridge program, which is an opportunity for selected students to receive academic support before their freshman year. Last year, about 13 percent of Bottom Line freshman participated in a bridge program, which helped lay their foundation for college.

“When I first learned about the bridge program I didn’t want to do it because it was going to take away my summer,” said Barrett-Pearson. “But it was a great opportunity because I got to know other people at the college.”

Mandy Cheng and Christine Chu

Mandy Cheng and Christine Chu at this year’s College Expo

This year’s College Expo was also open to high school students who are interested in joining both the Access and Success programs. Malden high school students Mandy Cheng and Christine Chu have applied to work with Bottom Line and came to the College Expo to gain a better understanding prospective colleges. Chu said that NYU and BU are her first choice schools, but she came to the event to so she could be open to more colleges.

Recalling the beginning stages of her college search, Clark University senior Bernadine Mavhungu said that she remembered that her expectations of college changed greatly.

“I wish I knew it was okay to not know what I was doing,” said Mavhungu. “I thought school was a means to an end. College has far exceeded my expectations, and Clark has helped me figure out what I want.”

By Laura Hedges, Bottom Line Access Counselor

This winter, Bottom Line-New York counselors have already helped over 250 of our high school students submit their financial aid applications. Financial aid can be daunting for any student – there are many steps in the process, with various tax documents and specific forms needed along the way. For perspective on some of the financial aid challenges that one student encountered and the ways that she worked with her Bottom Line counselor to overcome them, read Valeria’s account below.

Jonathan-Valeria#1  Name:  Valeria Inamagua

  High School: Talent Unlimited HS

  Number of Colleges Applied To: 17

  Top Choices: SUNY Stonybrook, Syracuse, and Swarthmore

  Why did you apply to Bottom Line last spring?

My mother wanted to help me with college applications, but she cannot because she didn’t go through the process herself and she doesn’t speak English. When I heard about Bottom Line, I immediately wanted to join. In the future, I want to be a role model for my younger sister, both by going to college and by helping her when she starts applying for college.

What was the hardest or most surprising part about the financial aid process so far?

My father doesn’t live with us and so I had to keep reaching out to ask him for information. I didn’t realize that colleges were going to ask for that, but they did and it was challenging. On top of that, I kept getting different requests for different forms from different schools in addition to the FAFSA and CSS.

What’s one way that your BL counselor has helped you with financial aid?

Jonathan went through the details in each application and each form. He didn’t just tell me what to write; he explained what each form meant and why they were asking for this information. I feel like it’s important that students know what they’re filling out. It’s going to pop up in the future and I need to know what to do after this year.

One piece of advice for students currently filling out financial aid:

To have all important documents ready in advance (even the ones that you don’t think they’ll ask for), so that you can input the information all at one time.

Bottom Line Senior Access Manager and “Team Go Far” marathon runner, Michelle Easton talks about preparing for this year’s marathon and why she runs for Bottom Line.

Michelle

Bottom Line Senior Access Manager Michelle was stopped short of the finish line last year. 

Why are you running for BL?
I got the idea in my head after hearing about the experiences of a few co-workers who ran for Bottom Line back in 2011 and 2012. Once I finished my Master’s degree, I decided that Boston would be my next challenge, even though I was not a regular runner at the time. I committed to running and fundraising for Bottom Line because I believe so strongly in the work that we do, and because I wanted to spread the word about our mission. Though I wasn’t able to finish the 2013 Boston Marathon due to the events that unfolded, I decided the same day that I would be back in 2014.

Do your students know you are running? What do you hope your own perseverance will teach them?
I haven’t spoken about the marathon with my students yet this year, but some of my students from last year knew that I ran. I honestly feel as though being forced to wait another year to cross the finish line has taught me something about the tenacity and persistence of my students. This is the hardest I have ever worked toward a goal, and I will be reaching it a full year after I had originally anticipated. Every year I meet with students who have hit one roadblock or another that has kept them from attending their first choice school, or from attending school at all. This experience will definitely change the way I talk to students about these obstacles when they come up—you can sit around and complain that things are unfair, or you can dust yourself off, make a new plan, and work twice as hard to achieve it. It’s easier said than done, but I have a whole lot more respect for students who have worked their butts off for an extra year to get where they want to be.

What does the Boston Marathon mean to you?
I grew up watching the marathon and I have lived a block from the marathon course in Natick for five years. I’ve seen the way that the community comes together to cheer on runners—not just the elites, but the moms and dads who are out there raising money for charity. Running a marathon, for me and for so many others, is about proving to yourself that you are capable of more than you ever imagined. It is the ultimate test of grit, perseverance, and hope. I imagine that running Boston is one of the big things I will remember about this stage in my life, something I will tell my kids and my grandkids about. I imagine that running the 2014 Boston Marathon is one of the most important and memorable things I will do.

Tell me about training, what has this process taught you about yourself?
You can’t train for a marathon without seeing yourself at your very best, and your very worst. I’ve learned how to take things one step at a time. When I started this crazy journey I hadn’t run more than 5 miles. During training, we added on one mile each week, and somehow my body and my brain learned how to do it. At our 18-miler last year, I realized for the first time that I could imagine making it through the rest of the marathon, and that was an incredible moment. When I talk to people about my training, almost everyone says something to the effect of, “Wow, I could never do that,” and I want to say to them, “You can! You just have to decide to do it, and do it.” It makes me wonder what else I may be capable of that I previously thought was impossible.

What are some of the greatest challenges you have faced over the past few months?
The weather and resulting sidewalk conditions. There is nothing more demoralizing than stepping onto what you think is hard-packed snow and feeling the immediate chill that means your shoe is now full of slush. Especially when you still have 4, 6, 10 miles to go. I also think I am finding it more mentally challenging to train the second time around. There is some value to naiveté and a blank slate in marathon training, and I think I put a lot more pressure on myself to run faster and to feel better at the end of a long run because I’ve done it before.

There is also definitely a fear factor in this year’s marathon. There is definitely some lingering anxiety about what might happen this year. Whether or not we talk about it, I think it’s in the back of all of our minds as we prepare.

What helps keep you motivated during training?
I think about all of the work I have put into my goal of crossing the finish line on Boylston Street for the last two years, and that makes it much more difficult to let myself slack off or skip a day. My teammates also keep me honest and motivated—during the week we all post updates on Facebook, and it’s hard to say, “Boo, it’s too cold to run,” when I can see that two of my teammates already did the run an hour before I got out of bed. When my alarm goes off on Saturdays, I’m not thinking about the fact that I will be cold and sore after running 16 miles in 10 degrees; I’m just looking forward to hanging out with the other Bottom Line runners during the 2+ hours we’ll be out on the course.

What are you most looking forward to about crossing the finish line?
Because I was stopped just short of the line last year, this will be an especially meaningful finish for me. I get emotional every time I think about it. Most of all, though, I can’t wait until the “second” finish line, which will be arriving at the Marathon Coalition after party a few minutes after crossing the line and celebrating the collective victory of all of my teammates. I grew very close with a few of the Bottom Line runners through our training and collective trauma last year, and I know how much this finish will mean to each of them, as well. Bring the tissues.

 

Click here to learn more about Bottom Line’s 2014 Boston Marathon team or contact Liz Hood at ehood@bottomline.org

This month Bottom Line – MA hosted Go Far Forum events in Boston and Worcester. More than 300 college students and graduates from Boston and 200 local professionals gathered at the Westin Copley Place Hotel to participate in Bottom Line’s sixth annual Go Far Forum on January 9th. Lead event sponsors of the Boston Go Far Forum were Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Boston Children’s Hospital, iRobot, Liberty Mutual, and Sun Life Financial. In total, 29 companies, nonprofits, and professional associations had exhibitions at the event. The event also featured a keynote speech by George Foreman III, owner of The Club, boxer, and son of former heavyweight champion boxer George Foreman. Mr. Foreman spoke to students about how to stand out professionally and the importance of building your brand.

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Boston Go Far Forum Keynote Speaker George Foreman III conducts a mock interview

Bottom Line Worcester hosted their Go Far Forum at the DCU Center on January 7th with more than 100 Worcester college students, graduates, and local professionals in attendance. Hanover Insurance Group, Worcester’s second-largest employer, served as the lead sponsor of the event. Staples and UMass Memorial Healthcare provided supporting sponsorships. In total, 18 companies and nonprofits were in attendance.

Bottom Line students and Hanover Employees

Students speak to Hanover Insurance employees at the Worcester Go Far Forum

Students at both events participated in mock interviews with volunteer professionals, attended roundtable discussions with human resource professionals, listened to job search panels, and met with representatives from companies and professional organizations at a career fair.

“The Go Far Forum has motivated me to continue working hard in school in order to become a successful person in the future. The mock interviews made me feel confident about the skills I have and helped me prioritize the experiences I will need in order to accomplish my goals,” said Bottom Line student Richard Gonzalez.

The Go Far Forum provides students with an exciting opportunity to explore different career paths, gain professional skills and network with experts in their field.

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Bottom Line students at the Go Far Forum in Boston

Click here to learn more about Bottom Line – New York’s recent Go Far Forum event.

On January 9th, nearly 100 of our college students and over 50 volunteers attended Bottom Line-New York’s Third Annual Go Far Forum. Students had the opportunity to work one-on-one with volunteers to edit their resumés, learn from a variety of professionals about their career paths, and practice their networking skills. Below are three of our students’ reflections on the event and what action the Go Far Forum has inspired each of them to take:

  IMG_2254Name: Taiwo Akande

  College: Brooklyn College

  Graduation Year: 2015

  Career Interests: Lawyer, but now I’m also thinking about other careers after this year’s Go Far Forum

What was your favorite career roundtable and why? The Law and Criminal Justice roundtable was my   favorite. Cristina (a Bottom Line – Massachusetts alum) was a volunteer on the roundtable who stood out to me in  particular. I talked to her one-on-one after the roundtable and appreciated how honest she was with me about  the  good and bad parts of entering the legal field.

What’s one piece of professional advice that you learned at the Go Far Forum? Everyone that I communicated with advised me not to focus solely on the job field that applies most closely to my major. They encouraged me not to limit my options. I used to think that with my Political Science major all that I could do was go into politics; the volunteers helped me open my mind to new ideas.

One next step that I’m planning to take after the Go Far Forum: Cristina encouraged me to start practicing for the LSATs if I really want to go to law school right after undergrad. She told me about a great summer program and I’m planning to apply.

 

IMG_2396  Name:  Randa Naim

  College: College of Staten Island

  Graduation Year: 2017

  Career Interests: Undecided, but I’m studying electrical engineering right now.

What was your favorite career roundtable and why? I really liked the business roundtable because it was pretty inspirational. There was a volunteer from Nickelodeon and he was telling us about the business of getting stars to sign contracts. I found that really interesting because when you watch Nickelodeon you think about Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants, but Joel showed us that there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes.

What’s one piece of professional advice that you learned at the Go Far Forum? There was a volunteer from Canon during the networking time who reminded us to keep reaching out. He said that it’s good that we’re starting early by going to the Go Far Forum, but that we should reach out and not limit ourselves. We should go for lots of internships and get lots of experience while we’re young.

One next step that I’m planning to take after the Go Far ForumI was already applying to some internships and fellowships, so now I’m definitely going to finish those applications.

 

IMG_2350  Name: Tiffany Acevedo

  College: SUNY Albany

  Graduation Year: 2017

  Career Interests: I definitely want to go to law school, but I’m not sure specifically what I want to study – possibly international business.

What was your favorite career roundtable and why? I enjoyed the law and criminal justice roundtable because I really liked that one of the panelists, Adi, said that if you want to go to law school, you don’t have to major in anything specific; you can study what interests you in college and law school will help you with the legal stuff.

What’s one piece of professional advice that you learned at the Go Far Forum? When you’re having professional conversations, there is never a negative attitude. When professionals were speaking to us, they treated us like adults and not just college students. That made me feel really good about myself.

One next step that I’m planning to take after the Go Far ForumI’m  going to attend more networking events because something good always comes out of them. You could meet someone who will have opportunities that you can take advantage of in the future or you could learn a new piece of advice.

Diaz, Stacy

Stacy Diaz graduated from Smith College in 2010

Stacy Diaz is currently a Dean of Students at the Brooke Charter School in East Boston. Prior to becoming a dean, she was part of Teach for America in Miami-Dade, where she taught third grade for two years. Stacy earned her B.A in Psychology and Education from Smith College. Her goals include attending graduate school in educational management and meeting her soon to be 9 year old “Little Sister”. She enjoys spending time with her family, playing at recess with her kindergarten students, cooking, and hiking.

High School: John D. O’Bryant

Job: Dean of Students at the Brooke Charter School

Bottom Line Memory: I remember when Claudine (my college counselor) would visit us at Smith every semester and take all of us to dinner to catch up.

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with: Mug, Hot Cocoa, Chapstick, and Snickers.

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: Bottom Line is a huge reason why I applied to so many colleges and was properly guided on the correct way to do so. I am grateful for all the amazing mentors I have gained through Bottom Line. I have made so many friends through Bottom Line events.

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: Led the dance group at the elementary school I taught at.

The BEST part of being a college graduate is: Not taking midterms or finals!

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: Not engaging in intellectual and therapeutic lunches and dinners with my Smithies on a daily basis.

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by Joining the alumni board and attending Bottom Line events such as the April 8th Get In, Graduate and Go Far Dinner!

254010_1969952601386_1020090013_2239148_8339064_nMirjola Adhami is a consultant at Sun Life Financial in their Rotational Leadership Development Program. Mirjola is in her third rotation at Sun Life, having worked in HR as a recruiter, in sales as a distribution consultant, and now in investments.

Mirjola came to Bottom Line from Another Course to College High School. Bottom Line helped her GET IN to Tufts, GRADUATE debt- free by connecting her to scholarship programs, and GO FAR by introducing her to Bottom Line partner, Sun Life Financial.

Eleven years ago, Mirjola moved to the United States from Albania with her family. She moved here with very little knowledge about American life, but found plenty of support from some very special people and organizations, one of which was Bottom Line.

High School: Another Course to College

College: Tufts University

Graduation Year: 2011

Job: Sun Life Financial, Rotational Consultant

Bottom Line Memory: Selectively picking and eating jolly ranchers by the front desk.

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with: Almonds, peanuts (yay healthy snacks!), Purell, post-its and stress balls (for finals!).

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line: I cannot talk about my success and achievements without talking about Bottom Line. The only way I can thank Bottom Line is by staying involved and helping other students succeed.

People would be surprised to learn that I used to: listen to the BBC to learn English when I was growing up in Albania.

The BEST part of being a college graduate is: a) you make money, b) you are in the privileged minority of college graduates – use it!

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is: Not having as much free time to focus on activities that interest you outside of work.

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by assembling care packages at the Bottom Line office and by making a financial contribution to Bottom Line. Remember to have your donations matched by your company!

 

 

‘Tis the season to apply to college! As a recent addition to the Bottom Line staff in Worcester, MA, I cannot believe how quickly time has gone by. I joined the Worcester office in late October, when only a few students from the Class of 2014 had applied to college; but last week, we hit an exciting milestone––our 100th student applied to college this year! Since it was an exciting moment for me as a new counselor, our office as a whole, and, of course, our student, I wanted to take a moment to share this student’s insights about his college application process.

Picture 162 Name: Carlos Rivera

High School: Worcester Technical High School

Number of college applications submitted: Eight

What is your first choice and why? My first choice is Harvard because it is an Ivy League school. It is not a school that just anyone can get into; you have to have good grades and be a really good student.

How has your counselor helped with the application process? She has helped me with writing my college essays and editing them. She has also helped me get my Common Application together and finished and motivated me to do things on time instead of leaving things for the day before they’re due.

Why is a college education important to you? A college education is important to me because I want to become a veterinarian, and without college, there’s no way you can become one.

What does it mean to you and your family to be the first to go to college? It shows that if you work hard in school and are academically successful, college is within reach. I am passionate about taking care of animals and my dream is to become a veterinarian. Specifically, I want to be a vet that serves pet owners from low-income backgrounds and helps them take care of their pets.

What is the most challenging part of application process? Getting all my stuff organized and doing one thing at a time. Having so many things to do, it is hard to focus on doing just one thing at a time. You can get distracted and stressed by the deadlines and amount of stuff you have to do.

What is one thing you learned from the application process? The earlier you get your work done, the easier it will be, because you don’t want to do the things for your application the day before the application is due. As a whole, it’s really complicated and time consuming.

What do you plan to do this winter and spring to help make sure you are ready for college next fall? I plan to work at Tufts at Tech Veterinary Clinic, and I might do an internship or be a volunteer at a zoo. I want to get all of my college shopping done for my dorm room, too.

What are you most excited about for college? Being independent. I want to create my own world outside of my parents’ house. I am looking forward to facing the world all by myself.

Advice for students interested in Bottom Line: Definitely join Bottom Line! Without it, I never would have been able to apply to college. That’s a fact. Even though I struggled to get my essays and assignments required to apply to college done, Bottom Line was always there.

 - Emily Shuki, Bottom Line – Worcester Access Counselor

This winter, Bottom Line – NY counselors have already helped 191 of our 300 high school seniors complete nearly 3,000 college applications. As our wall continues to fill up with stars for students who’ve hit the submit button, we wanted to share one student’s story of her college application process below.

Tiffany Rosario 1 Name: Tiffany Rosario

High School: High School of Arts and Technology

How many colleges did you apply to?  I applied to
nineteen.

What is your first choice and why?

My first choice is NYU. I’m interested in going there because it has so much of what I look for in a college. It’s in the City, plus it has good undergrad and graduate programs. I also am interested in the community service opportunities and the emphasis on studying abroad. It’s one of my reach schools, though!

When I go to college I want to major in either political science or creative writing. I really like writing and things in the English field. After college, I want to be either a lawyer or maybe even a judge. I know that NYU has a great law school, too.

How did your Bottom Line counselor help you with the college application process?

The process wasn’t something that I was expecting. We started off by making a college list, even though I already had my own list in mind. My personal list only had colleges that were really hard to get into. When we made our college list together, I told my Bottom Line counselor, Christine, that I didn’t want some of the schools that she listed. She explained to me why she put certain schools on my list and reminded me that it’s important to have a balanced list of colleges so I have some options if I don’t get into the schools I want.

After that, I started applying to schools. I thought the college application process was going to be harder before I came to Bottom Line, but I really liked how Christine narrowed everything down into deadlines and helped me figure out what I needed to do and when. She reminded me when all of my supplements and applications were due and helped me create to-do lists to make sure that I got everything done on time. If I was the only one looking at the applications, I might have missed some things. I thought I was organized, but Christine is one of the most organized people I know!

What has been the most challenging part of the application process?

I guess the hardest part was coming up with an idea for all of the essays I had to complete for all of the supplements. I have a few things on my resume that I could talk about, so I needed to figure out what to highlight for each school and what to focus on. Also, I felt like my Common App essay had to be perfect because every college was going to see it. I ended up writing three different Common App essays.

What have you learned from the college application process so far?

I learned that you have to be able to put yourself at the table. If you want someone at a college to know who you really are, you need to put as much detail into an application as possible to increase your chances of getting in somewhere since they might not meet you in person.

What do you plan to do this winter and spring to help make sure you are ready for college next fall?

I’ve already talked with Christine about the need to fill out my financial aid forms and get information from my family to apply for scholarships and to fill out the FAFSA. The earlier you apply for some of these scholarships, the more you get.

What are you most excited about for college?

I’m excited about so many things! I’m excited to meet new people, to get to choose my own classes, to learn more about topics that I didn’t get to learn about in high school, and to be independent. I’ve gone to programs at colleges for 2 or 3 weeks in the summer before, so I know a little bit about what it’s like already.

Richardson, Abigail 3Abi Richardson has her Bachelor’s in Business Administration in Marketing from the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. Abi was born and raised in Boston and is committed to giving back to the community. Her goals vary from expanding her brand Vers Clothing (Very Easily Redefining Style) to assisting at distribution events in Honduras giving children and adults their first pair of sneakers. Abi enjoys collecting sneakers and is actively involved within sneaker culture.

High School: Boston Latin Academy

College: UMass Amherst

Graduation Year: 2013

Job(s): President at Vers Clothing; Director of Programming for Sneakers4Success; Gas Sales and Marketing for NSTAR

Bottom Line Memory:

I appreciate all the assistance Bottom Line has provided for me while I was in college, but choosing a college was the difficult part. I honestly didn’t want to go to college. I remember speaking to Sarah Hedges as a high school student about not really knowing what was next in my life. She helped me visualize what my future could be and helped me to recognize that college would give me more options for my future. She explained to me how helpful Bottom Line would be throughout my journey in college. I instantly felt welcomed and incredibly appreciative.

If I could send a care package, I’d fill it with:

Now that’s easy. I’d fill it with my brand Vers Clothing of course. Don’t get me wrong, getting candy is awesome. But candy AND a tee shirt?? That would be crazy. One day…

Why I stay involved with Bottom Line:

I know I didn’t get to where I am today by myself. It’s important for me to give back to programs that have stuck by my side. There are so many ways to give back to our community, the only problem was choosing one (or two, or three). I appreciated every thing Bottom Line has done for me – from sending me care packages to providing mentoring.

People would be surprised to learn that I used to:

Only have two pair of sneakers. I remember having my all white and my all black pair of Nike Air Forces Ones.

The BEST part of being a college graduate is:

Having the freedom to do absolutely whatever I want with my time. I don’t have to wake up for class anymore or worry about if my homework is finished. I don’t read a syllabus anymore to guide me along each semester. The best part is using everything I’ve learned and applying it to whatever I love to do.

The HARDEST part about being a college graduate is:

Actually deciding what to do with all this free time. There are so many careers to choose from, events to attend and opportunities to volunteer. There’s a lot of pressure to hurry and a find a job right after college but I believe we all have our own path to whatever we define as success.

Join me in supporting Bottom Line by…

Volunteering to build care packages, attending the annual alumni Success Celebration and maybe being part of the Success Celebration committee and donating a care package!