Stefanny: Putting college within reach
The irony of Stefanny Sun’s current role – as a school-based adviser with the College Advising Corps (CAC) in Boston – is not lost on Stefanny herself. After all, not many years ago, she was a senior at the same school and college was not really part of her plan. Or at least, part of the plan anyone else seemed to have in mind for her.
Stefanny had been a solid student at her public high school in Boston and a contributor to the school community, too. She thought that given her track record, a four year college was within reach. Maybe UMass. Or a small, local four year college if she could get a good financial aid package. Stefanny knew that wherever she went, she would have to stick close to home. Money was a factor. She had nieces and nephews she would have to help look after. And she was the primary caregiver for her mother, a single mother of four who was beset by a range of health issues.
But her guidance counselor was stretched thin, juggling the needs of dozens of seniors, and making it impossible to give Stefanny the attention she needed. The counselor didn’t have time to help Stefanny do the necessary research into schools or to fully understand the complexity of various financial aid options. There were just too many students she had to cover. Stefanny was deflated. Without support, even community college seemed to be a reach.
“Even a little support changed his whole mindset”
But Stefanny rebounded. She found her way to UMass Boston, where she quickly made her mark, being accepted into the esteemed Honors Program. It wasn’t easy, she says. In addition to having to learn to fend for herself – “there are no teachers to hold your hand” – she had to juggle family obligations, work study and a part-time job with the MSPCA. She often thought about dropping out. But she graduated in four years – becoming the first member of her family to earn a college degree.
In joining CAC, Stefanny is looking to provide that same thrill of achievement and opportunity to other students like herself – inner-city public high school students who often don’t have the information, the encouragement and support they need to navigate the college admissions process. Stefanny wants to right a few wrongs and to change the odds for these students so that their dreams are encouraged and their expectations are real. She wants to earn their trust so that they can begin to trust themselves and what they are each capable of.
Stefanny laughingly says that working as a CAC adviser has been “a journey.” But clearly an irreplaceable one. “There is never a dull moment,” she admits.
And then there is the satisfaction of watching students like last year’s senior – who never thought he would amount to anything – transform to believing that he, too, had potential, thanks to Stefanny’s unflagging encouragement. “Even a little support changed his whole mindset,” she says with pride. Life changing, indeed.
College Advising Corps – By the Numbers:
of seniors at CAC Boston partner schools applying to college
CAC Boston meetings with seniors
of first-generation college students in 2015 CAC Boston