Wednesday, February 26, 2014

From Puerto Rico to Harvard Square

I'm writing this blog today from Harvard Square. That's where I am right now. Me. And I can hardly believe it.

Tomorrow I'll be interviewing for Harvard's EdLD program and to be honest it's still very surreal. 

I bought a Harvard T-Shirt today (okay and a beanie and sweater...) just to see if wearing it made it feel any more real. Still nothing. 

I can't believe I'm here. I really can't. 

Young Isabel, my grandma.
In 2012 I published an article about the morning my grandma, Isabel, died. She was born in Puerto Rico and did not continue her education past the 4th grade. The article explains how on the day she died my master's diploma arrived in the mail.

In that poignant moment when I pulled out my diploma, wiping tears away from the recent news of my grandma's death, that it was evident that a degree is so much more than a piece of paper.

It is opportunity. It is hope. 

And tomorrow, February 27, I will interview at Harvard. And you know what else I realized recently? February 27 was my grandma's birthday. 

I'll be thinking of her tomorrow, and, whatever the outcome, feeling incredibly grateful that I was able to get even this far.

This opportunity has also made me feel even more dedicated to making sure it isn't so hard for other people like me to reach their highest educational and professional potential.

In other words, tomorrow I'll be thinking of you. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

College To-Do List Week 13: Something fun to schedule!

The College To-Do List is here to see you through until the end of your Spring 2014 semester! It's the small things you do consistently that make the biggest difference. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

How to Know if an Online Degree Program is Right for You

My alma mater University of Illinois asked me to do a video about my experience getting my M.Ed online and in a way that would be helpful to anyone thinking about an online program. I said yes!

Please note U of I is not paying me to do this nor did they tell me what to say. These opinions are all my own and just meant to help you. Enjoy!

Monday, February 17, 2014

College To-Do List Week 12: Preparing for transfer

The College To-Do List is here to see you through until the end of your Spring 2014 semester! It's the small things you do consistently that make the biggest difference. 

Watch the video below to see what to do this week to make your transfer process A LOT easier. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

3 myths about community college

I want to dedicate this article to all the people who stumble upon my blog and email me after google searching "community college" with many fears and nerves about what is next. This is for you.

3 myths about community college

Myth #1: Community college is just for people who can't get in anywhere else.

TRUTH #1: Community college is for people who are smart. 

Community college provides an open door to people who want an education and are dedicated to doing more with their life despite their background or circumstances. Going to community college means YOU have made a choice in the right direction, towards a better future. 

There are also many opportunities for honors students at community colleges, such as honors programs (ask your admissions office) and the opportunity to join Phi Theta Kappa

For many, like myself, community college allows for reduced student debt and a great education with the opportunity to transfer and earn a bachelors degree. That is a smart move.  

Myth #2: Community college doesn't have opportunities for social life outside of hanging out with your old high school friends who didn't move away to college. 

TRUTH #2: There are many opportunities to make friends and get involved in community college.

While many community colleges do not have the budgets for big orientations or forced freshmen interactions, most do have robust student activities offices whose sole job is to provide opportunities for you to make friends and join clubs.

Some community colleges have more programming than others, but even if your college only has one really active club, get involved and become an officer!

When you take a leadership role in your community college you'll stand out big time and attract tons of scholarship money for your next academic adventure. And you'll make friends who share your desire to do something more with your life. 

Myth #3: Community college is basically 13th grade. 

TRUTH #3: Community college classes are rigorous and will require more self-management and more time studying than in high school. Community college is still COLLEGE and the professors expect a lot from you. They should - because you are capable. 

A lot of students drop out of community college when life gets in the way - college is not easy. But anything worthwhile is hard, and if you put in the effort, community college will be the beginning to a very successful collegiate future. 

Your attitude about community college, and more importantly, yourself, has a huge impact on your success. Now is the time to realize the opportunity you have in front of you, and to jump right in with everything you've got.

Just don't do it alone. Find a mentor. Join clubs. Visit professors during office hours. And see why community college can be a launching point to a life you could have never dreamed of. 

Currently in community college or about to start? Check out my book as it will help you build the connections you need to succeed in community college and beyond.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Your chance at a $5,500 scholarship and a chance to make a difference

I recently went on a school tour in my community with City Year and had to share it with you as it's something I wish I would have known about before I graduated college. 

City Year is a highly regarded national service program for students ages 17-24 where students dedicate a year to helping students in public schools; benefits include a living stipend for your year of service as well as a $5,500 education award upon completion. 

On my tour, I was struck by the innocent faces of the children (I toured a Title I elementary school), the dedication of the principal, and the joy of the City Year corps members

Khady in her City Year uniform.
Our tour guide, a corps member, had a particular spark that radiated both from her smile and her glittery glasses. 

As we continued the tour I found out our tour guide's name was Khady and that she too was a community college graduate. While finishing her Bachelor's degree at UCF she is also working full time as a City Year corps member. 

Below is an interview with Khady so you can learn more about her journey and why City Year has been such a great experience for her so far. Being a City Year Corps member is a competitive process and it's quite an honor to be accepted. I hope her advice below will help!

You can also jump here to learn how to apply to City Year! 

Some fast facts about Khady: 

She started community college in 2009 after graduating high school and got her A.A. in Spring 2013 from Valencia College. She is majoring in psychology and is expected to graduate from UCF in 2015. She enjoys watching Netflix and Hulu and her favorite foods are salads and smoothies. 

1. Why did you choose community college?

I couldn't afford university and didn't know what I wanted to do. Valencia was near by and I knew some administration. I thought it would be good fit for me to grow.

2. Were there any obstacles you had to overcome in your life that helped you become who you are today?

Not knowing what I wanted to do and not having a solid foundation of college educated people; I wasn't driven. Not having a drive to do school or to be educated I didn't do well at first. After working in the "real world" and seeing a cap on my potential I knew I needed to get back in school and Valencia was the place for me.

3. What was one thing you did in community college that helped you be successful?

Taking time to study and read was beneficial. Valencia is a group based school and working in groups was so helpful that I brought that technique into my studies at UCF.

4. What drew you to City Year?

City Year found me. I was at school and saw the City Year booth. I read up on some things and saw that it was service based organization. My background is in service so I was interested. Seeing the benefits and also what I could do for our country, I knew it was a fit for me. I even met the recruiter through a friend and he was such a great help in the application process.

5. What have you loved about being involved about City Year so far?

I love being able to work with the scholars. Teaching them is different then what I have done with children before but it's a learning process. 

I also am the outreach coordinator at Catalina Elementary School through City Year. This is a fun part of my responsibilities because I get to write a monthly service briefing on what's going in our school. I also enjoy being the one to take all our guest around and show them the impact that City Year is doing.

6. How do you feel City Year is helping you grow towards your goals?

The work load is rigorous and time consuming. I feel as though once I graduate from my service at City Year I can do anything.

7. Doing City Year and going to college full time is a lot of work! Would you recommend this or recommend doing it after college?

I would recommend City Year for after college or right after high school. The work load is a lot. You are required to work a certain amount of hours for AmeriCorps certification. With the required hours for City Year and the required hours to be a dedicated college student its too much for a normal person. But it is doable.

8. What is one thing that has helped you manage your time the most and not let your grades slip while working full time?

Time management is an important part of my life. I have been working with my impact manager on how I am using my time and also what I can do to benefit my life and school. 

It's been a balancing act because I also have to go to the chiropractor from a serious car accident that I was in the day before City Year started. I have my iPhone that has a calendar filled with my responsibilities and I make sure that I check it daily/weekly to make sure I don't miss any due dates for school or City Year.

9. What advice do you have to a reader who would like to apply for City Year?

Read into the organization. Stay on top of deadlines if you are serious about applying. Look into other cites in America if you are looking for different scenery as well. 

Something I wish I did was travel to a different state like some of my team mates but I'm happy to be helping my home state. If you have questions I'm willing to answer via email:

10. What do you hope to do after you graduate as a career?

I want to be a psychologist and have my own private family practice. I want to work with children and married couples incorporating art and music for therapeutical treatment.

Learn more about City Year at or jump right here to apply!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

From Community College to Harvard: Community College Can Take You Anywhere

I'll never forget when my professor told me community college could be a launching point to wherever I wanted to go in my life. 

He was right.

Yesterday I received an invitation interview for a doctoral program at Harvard University. When I got the e-mail I immediately thought of the 18-year-old girl crying in the advising office of her community college, feeling like her life was going nowhere. 

That girl was me. And I'm so thankful for all the people in my life who helped me get here. They not only helped me, but they showed me that no matter where we come from and no matter what level of privilege or adversity we have in our lives - we all need support. We all need mentors. We all need help.

Do not go your college journey alone. It doesn't work. As I wrote in my book, you have the power to build your own support network. Do it, and go far.

Below is the most recent episode of The SKiNNY, which shares vital tips and misconceptions about transferring from community college to a four-year university. If getting a bachelor's degree is your ultimate goal, you won't want to miss this one.

Because community college really can take you anywhere. Set your sights high. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to make a difference in something you care about

Is there something you really care about? Something you want to change? Somewhere you want to make a difference?

Do you ever get discouraged?

I sure do. It probably comes to no surprise to you that one of the things I care most about is low-income students breaking the cycles of poverty through education. 

Sometimes the issues of inequality and the systems that continue them feel so overwhelming. Sometimes I feel like I'm not making any difference at all. 

And that's the best weapon the status quo and patterns of oppression have - to make people who want to change things feel completely powerless and hopeless. 

Last week I read an amazing book - Privilege, Power, and Difference by Allan G. Johnson - that featured a poem that I wanted to share with you: 

Stubborn Ounces 
(To the One Who Doubts the Worth of Doing Anything If You Can’t Do Everything)

You say the little efforts that I make
will do no good; they will never prevail
to tip the hovering scale
where Justice hangs in balance.
                                  I don’t think
I ever thought they would.
But I am prejudiced beyond debate
In favor of my right to choose which side
shall feel the stubborn ounces of my weight.

by Bonaro W. Overstreet

I hope that you do not lose faith in your power to affect change in whatever it is you really care about. 

And as for me, I hope that the stubborn ounces of your weight complete college and achieve your dreams - it is one of the best things you can do for yourself and for all the people who identify with you.

Monday, February 3, 2014