Paying it Forward

My parents were wonderful in teaching me a wonderful concept: share what you know.

I know, we all should do that, right? Unfortunately, a lot of people don't freely offer up useful information unless specifically asked a question. That's sad, because there are so many things in life that if we know 'hey, I've been there, too' or 'you know, if you just called..." it would make our journey a little easier.

So, paying it forward.

This semester, by virtue of my good grades, I'm in an Honors Spanish class. The structure of the class is more student dictated. For instance, we choose the format of our exams and projects. Most of our interactions are done on Facebook and using the college web infrastructure. I like it, because this helps me to learn Spanish syntax and grammatical structure.

The college places a lot of resources into having an Honors program, and today, students were treated to a picnic at a reserve near the Lakeland campus. I went, knowing that perhaps the only people I would know was my Spanish prof and the Stats prof who took Spanish I with me two semesters ago.

I was right, I didn't know anyone else, but the conversations were pleasant. Profesora was funny, cheering that "my Honors Spanish students are represented" when I arrived. As there were only about 30 people there, she and I got to chat quite a bit about upcoming events in the class (a day trip and an overnight are in the works).

A previous student joined our conversation and the usual questions came up-how long until you get your AA and where do you want to continue in your studies? He expressed concern about coming up with the money and stated that after he graduates next December, he might just work until the following fall to come up with the cash to pay tuition at the University of Florida.

Profesora and I shared what we knew, that applying for a semester other than fall improves your chances for getting one of those coveted seats in a competitive program. He also lamented what he'd found so far on the financial aid front and I gave him the suggestion that worked for me.

The University has a great website, and if you look at the admissions section, go into the Financial Aid section. For instance, USF has a scholarship search engine-UF probably has the same thing. There are more scholarships for transfer students and most don't realize they're out there. I mentioned local businesses that encourage continuing students and offer scholarships.

Most importantly, universities WANT you to attend and will help you find the financial resources to attend if your grades are there. He seemed a little surprised at that one, but it's so true. The single most important visit he can make on the UF campus when touring is to the Financial Aid office to explain his situation and see what options he can try. He thanked us and left to join his friends as the picnic ended.

Profesora walked me out to my car and thanked me for giving a personal testimonial that seemed to make an impression on him. This polite, intelligent young man comes from a very large family and dad's job doesn't allow for them to fund college for all their kids.

When I had money, I didn't have time to return to school, and when I had the time, we didn't have the money. Now, I have no money and plenty of time and found a way to make this work. What got me here is persistence and others pointing me in the right direction.

Now it's my turn to do the same.


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