Academic Success on a Budget

The cold weather sets in on the Nevada campus. Students flock to Starbucks to buy their cup of Joe or hot chocolate before heading to class. Others arrive at school just in time and park their cars in the Sierra Complex building[located near the Nevada football field]. You also see students rush to their 8 a.m. classes because they slept in and missed their regular bus route to school.

Ah, the life of a college student. Smell the combination of desire, responsibility, Starbucks, student workload, and exhaustion.

Exhaustion on the basis that a college education isn’t cheap and students must work harder in order to get the college education they’ve dreamed of.

~Types of Colleges & Average published yearly tuition and fees

Public two-year college (in-district students): $3,347

Public four-year college (in-state students):$9,319

Public four-year college (out-of-state students):$22,958

Private four-year college:$31,231

*According to College Board

To make college more affordable and accessible, students are able to apply and qualify for financial assistance.

Financial assistance is a need-based government aid fund which grants students money for college. The amount of money given from the government is based on household income and number of family members in the household.

After applying for financial aid students are given an EFC amount (Expected Family Income) which is the portion of money students are expected to pay for college.

There are students who are able to pay the EFC amount, but there are also students who have to excel a little more to achieve their dreams of attending a college institution.

Those students are what I call, “the forgotten ones.”


MARISELA CASTORENA

Marisela Castorena, 18-year-old freshman at Nevada

Marisela Castorena doesn’t need to worry about arriving late to class. Her mother wakes her up in case her alarm goes off and she doesn’t hear it. A bold and bright young woman, whose ambition is to become a nurse, worked rigorously to get to Nevada.

She had to.

Castorena knew she fewer opportunities than others do. Her mother and father are blue-collar workers who emigrated from Mexico and desired to give their children opportunities they didn’t have.

A straight A-student in high school, Castorena graduated at the top of her class from Sparks High School in Sparks,Nev. She received countless awards throughout high school. She earned perfect attendance awards, made Principal’s List (which requires a 4.0 G.P.A), received soccer varsity letters, and was junior class president in 2013–2014.

Her academic success and involvement in high school led her to receive various scholarships at her school’s Scholarship Night ceremony.

What didn’t she receive? Financial assistance.

Castorena’s parents were told they made “too much money.”

Castorena relies on her hard work to get her through school, but without a license, Castorena is reliant on her parents to get to campus. She’s also economically dependent on her parents.

“I am very thankful [for my parents],” Castorena said. “ I don’t think I would be doing what I’m doing without the support that they have given me.”

Castorena doesn’t work. Her primary job is being a student. Her success as a student will earn her money to continue her education.

“I am going to school for my family, who never had the opportunity to continue school,” Castorena said. “I am also the first in my family to ever attend college and I will be the first to graduate. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do for my family and for myself. I also want to make something out of myself when I get a career. I want to have an impact on people’s lives and contribute back to my community as much as I can.”


JAGDEEP KAUR

Jagdeep Kaur, 18-year-old freshman at Nevada

Near the peaceful Sparks Marina resides a lively young woman, Jagdeep Kaur. Kaur’s parents emigrated from Salone, India in 2000, at the age of three, Kaur experienced a change of environment from the poverty ridden streets of India she came to the land of opportunity, the United States.

In 2008, she was granted citizenship. Today, she attends Nevada and works diligently to afford a college education.

Fast-paced Kaur is on the go from the moment she leaves her home to when she returns back.

Kaur’s parents own properties, which disqualified her for financial aid. She was offered student loans, but would rather work than take on student debt.

Today, she works 55 hours a week at her parents’ Port-of-Subs. Her job has caused her to drop two classes and puts her at risk of losing the Millennium scholarship, which requires students to take a minimum of 15 college credits.

“I’m very tired,” Kaur said. “I make sandwiches all day for people who think [that] just because I work in fast food they can treat me like I’m nothing.”

Kaur’s need to work stems from her desire not to stay in the fast food industry, but her hectic schedule in trying to balance homework and her job has led her to the idea of quitting college.

“I was thinking recently about quitting college,” Kaur said. “I wouldn’t have to stay up until midnight doing homework and I would probably make more money working in food since I own a share of Port of Subs, but I don’t want to make sandwiches the rest of my life. I just want a stable job. I wouldn’t make much being a teacher, but at least I wouldn’t have to worry about sales for that day.”


MIREYA GUTIERREZ

Mireya Gutierrez, 21-year-old senior at Nevada

Mireya Gutierrez, a goal-oriented senior at Nevada, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in addiction treatment in spring 2016. All the while, she has never touched a student loan in her entire college career.

Scholarships, grants, and financial assistance have provided Gutierrez the opportunity to continue her education.

Growing up, Gutierrez was born into a one-parent household. Her mother worked hard for Gutierrez to continue her education and was a motivational force for Gutierrez to excel in her education.

Gutierrez graduated number two in her class in 2012 from Hug High School in Reno, Nev. She was also a member of National Honor Society and played volleyball.

When I asked Gutierrez what motivated her to be successful in her education she responded, “[my] mom.”

Her drive has led Gutierrez to pursue a master’s degree. However, she will take a year off after graduating next year before continuing her education.

A driven young woman, Gutierrez began at the bottom of the food chain, McDonalds, she began working as a cashier in May 2010 and broke free in 2014.

“I’m very glad [to get out of the fast food industry]but it did give me skills and knowledge,” Gutierrez said.

Today, she works two jobs: one as a child caregiver at the Kids Kottage and another as a Case Manager for a client with a mental disability at the Person-centered Assessment Training & Habilitation. She has also been able to get out of her mother’s home and shares a house with roommates near the Nevada campus.


These three young women are not guaranteed success nor failure.

These students have to work a little bit harder in order to get the result they desire.

Their aspirations aren’t limited to where they came from or the money they earn, but where they came from is a driving force to what they want to achieve.

These students are not overlooked. These students stand up and say look at me I’m here.

Some will fail and others will succeed, but these students are the ones who are trying.

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