Guest Opinion: Welcome to college: quarantine, coloring books and pursuing a dream

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Roberts Wesleyan College - For an incoming college freshman, those first few days on campus should be the time of your life – total freedom, endless social events, memorable experiences and making new friends.

Unfortunately, I had to spend the first two weeks of college locked alone inside my dorm room.

To help prevent further spread of COVID-19, New York implemented a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for anyone traveling from the state from Florida. That meant I had to arrive at Roberts Wesleyan College two weeks ahead of schedule and couldn’t see anyone or do anything outside the four walls of my dorm room. My phone was my primary entertainment source for music, videos, TV shows and movies. I also read, colored, made a friendship bracelet and organized my room – it felt like kindergarten all over again!

My two-week quarantine ended with no symptoms, and I was free to start my college career and begin pursuing a dream I’ve had for many years. In Immokalee, graduating high school isn’t a given, let alone going to college. Yet, here I am, the daughter of a construction worker and the oldest of four siblings, majoring in business at a private, out-of-state college with an annual sticker price of $44,910.

How did this happen? Well, now, students like myself have a whole community in their corner, helping us blaze a trail toward a brighter future through education.

After my mother suddenly passed away, I had to balance schoolwork with additional responsibilities at home as the eldest. I set a goal of not only becoming the first in my family to graduate from high school, but also the first to attend college. I was accepted into Guadalupe Center’s college-preparatory Tutor Corps Program, which gave me opportunities to overcome barriers I was facing. I learned how to properly shake hands and make small talk in a professional setting. I learned how to write essays, complete financial aid forms, apply for scholarships and fill out college applications.

As I progressed through high school, I considered staying local for college. After my junior year, though, I had an opportunity to attend a summer program at Roberts Wesleyan through Guadalupe Center’s E.G. Salisbury Tutor Corps Summer Academy. That experience opened my eyes and helped me realize that while I wanted to be near my family, this was an opportunity that would help me reach my full potential. I decided to leave home to focus on school and my future.

Roberts Wesleyan is an elite academic institution, and I had the grades and the motivation to succeed there – I just didn’t have the money. Again, Guadalupe Center stepped up. Through Guadalupe Center, I received the Christine and Thomas Matthews Scholarship and the Guadalupe Center Exceptional Scholarship. Through the Beta Club, I received the Beta Club’s Noah’s Attic Scholarship. Through Roberts Wesleyan, I received the Roberts Fund Grant, Presidential Scholarship and Early Access Grant. I also received a Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant and a Florida Prepaid Plan. A federal subsidized loan will cover the remaining expenses.

Guadalupe Center then helped provide essentials for my dorm room and even worked with donors to cover my flight to New York.

Leading up to that flight, my dad became more comfortable with the thought of me leaving home. When I left, his words of advice were to study hard and set a good example for my brother and two sisters. They’re also a part of Guadalupe Center programs, and I’m hopeful they’ll be following in my footsteps to become the second, third and fourth members of our family to attend college. I want them to see that life can improve once you let go of any negativity that might be holding you back and simply follow your dreams.

About the Author:
Alberta Araceli Morales-Gonzalez is a freshman at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester, New York. She is a 2020 graduate of Immokalee High School and Guadalupe Center’s Tutor Corps Program.

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