"Because of This, I Feel Prepared and Courageous About My Future"

December 8, 2016

By Genesis Cubilette

NCAN members work with students every day whose unwavering aspirations, dedication and perseverance in achieving their educational dreams illustrates the need for federal financial aid policies that concentrate resources where they are needed most. Higher Edge is one such member and Genesis Cubilette is one of those students. (Read more stories like theirs here.)

To ensure financial aid gets to the students like Genesis who need it most, NCAN recommends three immediate policy improvements for President-elect Donald Trump and Congress: #FixFAFSA, keep the promise of the Pell Grant program, and provide work opportunities to low-income students.

My name is Genesis and I am a Latina woman. I am a dyslexic, low-income, first-generation sophomore at Connecticut College. In other words, I am a person with barriers – and tools to overcome them. 

In the past, the picture painted in my mind about college was that it was a place where people went to become professionals, and it cost a lot of money – therefore, it wasn’t for everyone. However, eager to challenge my own beliefs, I knew I would go to college, despite assuming that I didn’t have the funds to do so. Luckily enough, it turns out there are numerous financial resources to find, earn, and utilize in order to pay for tuition. 

I learned all of this my junior year in high school when I joined Higher Edge – a college completion organization in my hometown of New London, CT. Learning about the FAFSA, financial aid, grants, scholarships and loans was overwhelming, to say the very least. Discovering the structure of this system and how one’s aid is calculated was similar to learning a new language, which I might say really bothers me – not only as a dyslexic person, but because the subject matter so complicated yet useful, it very well could be a class offered in high schools. 

Being in college, I have managed to use my own knowledge and skills to handle my own financial aid, and summon the voice and power to know where I can find resources when in need. Through my own merit, I earned scholarships that have saved me plenty of stress, and through financial need I received grants that have really made the difference in me being able to attend college. 

For instance, I received the Pell Grant from the federal government, which is restricted to students who demonstrate financial need. Without this grant and knowledge of financial aid, I probably could have completely extracted myself from the idea of college, or been tempted to major in something that I am not interested in. To obtain a “secure” job, I would have risked my future to pay back the many thousands of dollars I would have had in school debt. Now, I am majoring in Africana Studies and double-minoring in Sociology and Gender & Women Studies.

Another factor in financial aid is the notorious FAFSA itself, which is something that still intimidates by to this day. I wouldn't dare update my FAFSA on my own, for the simple fact that it feels like one is being tested. The suspicious tone in every question leads me to doubt my own answers every time. 

However, this too is something I have learned to slowly overcome. One incredibly useful skill I have obtained through not only dealing with financial aid, but also having a learning disability, being a low-income first generation student, and not any woman but a woman of color, is that I have to work harder for everything. Consequently, taking on the financial aid challenge has allowed me to practice real-life hardships earlier in life than the average person. Because of this, I feel prepared and courageous about my future.

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