"It's Not Just the Scholarship."

March 9, 2018

By Kim Szarmach, Communications Intern 

For students underrepresented in higher educationevery dollar counts when piecing together a financial aid package. And their ability to obtain those dollars and succeed in college depends on policymakers establishing a Streamlined FAFSA and approving increased, sustainable funding for need-based aid like Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, as well as programs like Federal Work-StudyAmeriCorps, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness. 

When Jose Jimenez was in high school, he knew he needed to go to college but had no idea how to get there. His parents emigrated from Mexico to Marin County, CA, where he grew up and his family still lives today. Although neither of his parents received any education beyond elementary school, they made sure he understood its importance. They didn't want him to have to work as hard as they did to take care of their family. 

"I've seen how [my dad] hustles in order to make sure we have the money to have food on our plates," Jose said. "That keeps motivating me all the time." 

In Jose’s junior year of high school, a client of his dad's landscaping company told Jose about a program called 10,000 Degrees that could give him the guidance he needed to get into college. But Jose was not interested. He wasn't used to getting help academically, and so didn't expect much from the college access program.  

"Through my academic career I had always been denied support," he said, "whether it was tutoring or applying for college." 

Fortunately, he decided to apply to for the program the day before the application was due. He now not only says he wouldn't be where he is without 10,000 Degrees, but is also paying it forward by working for the organization as a student ambassador. 10,000 Degrees helped Jose apply for financial aid, get into community college, and eventually transfer to a four-year institution.  

"It's not just about the scholarship they give," he said. "It's really the time and patience of sitting down with me and asking me what do I want to do and where do I want to go."

Thanks to the support of 10,000 Degrees, his family and friends, and lots of hard work, Jose's college career has not been short of proud moments. He earned a 4.0 GPA in the fall of 2015, applied to 11 four-year institutions and got accepted to all of them. He eventually decided to pursue his bachelor's degree at the University of California at Davis, where he will graduate this spring, debt-free.  

"I like to say I had the privilege of declining UCLA," Jose said, laughing.   

Jose's pathway through post-secondary education hasn't been easy, but he says that if he had to do it again, he would do it the same way. However, now that his younger sister is a senior in high school, he's encouraging her to apply to four-year institutions right away and look at schools outside the state of California. 

"I told her to go far, even though sometimes my parents roll their eyes at me because they don't want her to leave," he said. 

After he graduates, Jose will likely be counseling more high school students besides his sister. He plans on working full-time at 10,000 Degrees, the organization that helped get him where he is today.

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