By Lissette Camacho Morales. As Teach For America turns 25, this year marks a major milestone within the organization that challenged my generation to become part of a movement to end educational inequity. In my first blog post ever, I share my Teach For America story and renew my commitment to college access by launching My Financial Aid Game Plan blog.
You’ll learn how the mission and vision that gave rise to Teach For America twenty-five years ago and helped me get my first teaching job ever serves as a source of fresh inspiration for the blog today. I’ll also give you five reasons why the stakes are simply too high for My Financial Aid Game Plan blog not to exist.
My Teach For America Story (1991-1994)
Founded in 1990, TFA aims to close the achievement gap in U.S. public education by recruiting high-achieving college graduates to teach for two years in underserved low income communities. What you may not know is that I was a part of the second cohort recruited to Teach For America in 1991.
Like most TFAers, I didn’t plan on becoming an educator when I graduated from Cornell University. Though I didn’t know what I wanted to be, I knew I wanted to be inspired. I decided to give the teaching profession a try.
During my first year of teaching fifth grade bilingual in the south Bronx, I was interviewed by Allure magazine. By then I was starting to embrace my professional identity as an educator though I envisioned myself working with young adults.
Me In A Nutshell
As a teacher, I learned that I thrive on helping others. What’s more, I will fight for the underdog. That’s because I truly believe everyone deserves a fair chance at an excellent education.
My ultimate mission field? Public higher education. My passion? College access. My students? First-generation low-income students, students with disabilities, at-risk students, and student athletes. My specialty? Helping underrepresented college students progress through developmental education requirements in reading and writing. My secret weapon? Persuasion.
How I Serve Today
My longstanding commitment to student access and educational equity that started twenty-five years ago—with Teach for America—remains steadfast to this day through my work with Compass Coaching NJ and Family Community Development Corporation.
Through Family Community Development Corporation, I provide support to volunteer tutors serving Linden, NJ elementary and middle school students in afterschool programs. Interested in volunteering? Contact the Family CDC at (908) 374-6770.
Through Compass Coaching NJ, I help students choose majors and careers that suit their personality. I also help students transition successfully from high school to college and college to career. Last but not least, I provide ADHD coaching and academic coaching to student athletes and at-risk students.
But of all the things I do to support students getting to and through college and career, nothing speaks more to college access than the work that I do to educate and empower students and their families about financial aid.
What is My Financial Aid Game Plan?
My Financial Aid Game Plan is my weekly blog. It’s where I respond to comments and empower parents and college-bound teens to become smart college shoppers.
Who is My Financial Aid Game Plan For?
It’s for parents and college-bound teens regardless of whether you’re well off or you’re just getting by. My blog is for anybody who thinks spending 42% of your income on paying for college is too much! Click To TweetThat includes low- and middle-income families who cannot afford to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities as well as affluent families who have not saved enough for college. Ultimately, this blog is for anybody looking for the right fit at the right price.
What are the Five Whys Behind My Financial Aid Game Plan?
Why am I going to teach you everything I’ve learned over the course of twenty years wearing different hats inside higher education?
1. You and I are a lot alike. We are both trying to figure out how to pay for college without going broke.
According to experts, by the time my son starts college in 2023-the average cost of a private college will be nearly $70,000 for one year and the average cost of a public college will be nearly $39,000. At these prices, my son’s education could end up costing more than our home. If money is an issue, and it usually is for those of us with kids, then sooner or later we’ll both be searching for the best college at the best price. I want to share lessons learned from my family to yours about how to make college more affordable.
2. I don’t believe you should have to mortgage your future to get an education.
Student loans are supposed to help you move forward with your adult life; instead they are often the reason students must put their adult lives on hold indefinitely. “In a survey of recent graduates with school debt, 47% say they are putting off buying a house or a car, 76% are putting off saving for the future, and 35% are putting off starting a family.” As Dave Ramsey, author of Smart Money, Smart Kids, laments, “They are finally ready to graduate, but all the financial mistakes of the past four years have snuck up on them and robbed them of the joy of getting out of school and starting their lives as working adults.” I want you to keep your joy.
3. I want you to enjoy the journey from day one.
As a transfer student, I know just how frustrating it can be to start college in a school that just isn’t a good fit for you. The fact is about 1/3 of college students will transfer to another college within 6 years, and nearly 4/10 will do so without transferring any credits to their new institution. That’s a whole lot of time and money down the drain. I want to save you time and money.
4. I want to help you become a smart college shopper.
Nowadays the problem isn’t so much getting into college, it’s figuring out how to pay for it. That’s because far too many students and parents lose sight of the fact that a college education is a major purchase, just like a car or a house. Whether you're well off or you're just getting by, it pays to shop around for college! Click To Tweet I want to help you stay grounded in reality and moving forward strategically with your college search.
5. I am passionate about helping you get to and through college and career.
Through my blog you’ll learn how to cut the cost of college by focusing on what makes a school a good academic and financial fit. I’ll show you the right way to research, apply to and pay for school. I’ll even help you figure out how to make the most of your college years once you are there and how to choose a career path that suits you.
Student Access and Educational Equity
Championing access and equity is as important today as it was twenty-five years ago. Nowhere is this more evident than inside higher education. That’s because for generations, public higher education has served as a means of access to the middle class for low-income families.
Right now, I’m inviting you to join me in celebrating 25 years of Teach For America by subscribing to My Financial Aid Game Plan blog. You’ll get up-to-date information on financial aid policies, practices, and challenges facing college students. You’ll learn how to avoid costly college mistakes and take control of your education.
With renewed commitment to college access, I dedicate this blog to my son, his generation, their families and those who serve them.
What’s your game plan?
What kind of game plan do you need to create? Write it in the comment box below.
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