It has been 10 years since Andrea graduated from Garfield High School as one of the first students College Access Now (CAN) supported on their path to college in 2007.
Andrea grew up in Seattle in a very supportive, yet financially challenged, single-parent household. Throughout her early life, both of her parents instilled the need for, and value of, a college education; unfortunately, they just didn’t have the knowledge or financial resources to help move her forward.
Andrea was passionate about learning and obsessed with wanting to pursue higher education. Her goal? “Go to college and make as much money as possible.”
Andrea is a go-getter and the first step to making her dream a reality was to join as many college access programs as she could. This is how she came to CAN.
CAN provided her a college coach that helped her navigate the college-going process. She didn’t have a computer at home and she vividly remembers having lab hours after school where CAN volunteers would help students with whatever they needed. She believes CAN was so important because “they provided structure and support from people who have experience and who are rooting for you and helping you envision where to go next.”
Andrea worked hard and received many scholarships and acceptances into college. She says that receiving acceptance letters to college felt like “getting a paycheck” because she had put in all this work and was finally able to see a return. Ultimately, she decided on Amherst College where she majored in Black Studies and Political Science. Andrea says that she had a great experience but she did face some challenges along the way. She says, “I was so focused on getting in to college that I found myself not knowing how to navigate college.”
She didn’t have a vision for life in college so it became a hard place to navigate in her first years. However, at the end of the day, she learned so much and feels blessed to have had the experience to attend college. When she walked across the stage to receive her diploma “it felt amazing” and she was surprised when the faculty had selected her to receive the Distinguished Graduate award.
Andrea learned many lessons while pursuing her undergraduate degree. She grew in her faith and had time to reflect on what her purpose is on this earth. She learned about the value of relationships and having a solid support system. She also learned that it is important to keep in touch and follow up with people who made an impact on her life. She wishes she had stayed in touch with CAN to come back and say “I completed your mission. Thank you.”
After receiving her Bachelor’s degree, Andrea moved to Washington D.C. to work at a non-profit. However, she quickly realized that this job was not helping her build her professional skills and so she went back to school to pursue her Master’s degree. Andrea continued her education at Georgetown University where she graduated with her Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning in 2018.
Urban and regional planners develop land use plans and programs that help create communities, accommodate population growth, and revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas. Andrea currently works as an analyst at the Department of Housing and Community Development in Washington D.C. As an analyst she reviews applications from developers and determines what housing makes the most sense for communities in need. She reflects on how the work she does now is her life coming full circle as she grew up in affordable housing herself and is able to better understand the importance of the urban planning process.
Andrea’s advice for students seeking to graduate from college?
“Have a mission to help drive your goals. When you are presented with opportunities, you can view them through the lens of your mission to help you make decisions.”
“Find trustworthy mentors- personal, academic, and professional. The transition to adult is different when you leave college- you can save a lot of stress by asking for help.”
“Don’t be conflicted to take a job that makes a lot of money – leverage what you know and take it to places that need your knowledge. Bridge experiences and opportunities in ways you may not think of.”
When asked what she hopes to be doing in 10 years, Andrea says that she hopes to be running a business that empowers and helps low-income folks develop marketable skills and have a path of employment in industries where it would be an asset to have their experiences and expertise.
Andrea’s life has been very different from what she had imagined as a 16-year-old. When she was 16 she envisioned herself doing international work but she developed a heart for domestic issues – especially in low-income communities. She is proud of the goals she has accomplished thus far and is looking forward to the future.