Our College Bound program provides high school students with college and career readiness services through individualized academic advising, mentoring, and resources to ensure they graduate high school with a customized post-secondary plan. But what happens when the student’s plan doesn’t go quite as expected?

Anayeli, who has always been responsible, independent, resilient, and committed, was in her junior year at Godinez Fundamental High School when she started volunteering at our Boys & Girls Club of Santa Ana and was introduced to the College Bound program. At the time, College Bound was a new and developing program, but Juan, the program’s coordinator (now our Director of College and Career Development), would see Anayeli volunteering at the Club and ask her about her plans for the future. He was genuinely interested in her academic career and success, and because of his caring nature, Anayeli felt comfortable sharing her goals. She joined College Bound and began customizing her path toward the college and career of her dreams.

She told Juan she planned to go away to school to study either law or elementary education. She was drawn to working with kids, and she could see herself pursuing a career where she would be able to make a difference for youth. During the summer after her junior year, she took a part-time internship with a law firm while continuing to volunteer at the Club, and she soon realized that law was not the right path for her. She wanted to be able to see immediate results of her work and to make a lasting impact in the lives of others.

Through some further exploration with the mentorship and resources provided through College Bound, Anayeli found the perfect major: Child & Adolescent Development, and she found several schools in both the UC and CSU systems offering that as a field of study. With Juan’s guidance, Anayeli secured fee waivers for her college applications, grants to help with her tuition, and scholarships to help her pay for living expenses. She committed to San Francisco State University – her plan was coming together beautifully!

During her first year at San Francisco State, Anayeli was making friends, enjoying her classes, and taking time to explore the city. But she began to worry about money, so she took a job as a substitute preschool teacher, an opportunity that allowed her to fill in at preschools throughout San Francisco. She was quickly able to see how children from various communities were treated differently based on their families’ incomes. She then found a job at an after-school program where she was able to see each student for who he or she really was and to connect with each one in an individualized way. She was especially drawn to the at-risk youth – particularly the students that none of her co-workers could find a way to reach. Both of these experiences sparked a new determination in Anayeli to use her skills and voice to make sure each student was heard, thus making a greater impact.

Details of her future career were starting to become very clear, and everything was falling into perfect alignment. And then, Anayeli learned that she would not be receiving financial aid after the fall semester of her junior year; she would not be able to afford to continue studying at San Francisco State. She was crushed, but she refocused and started looking into schools that were closer to home, offering similar majors, and accepting spring semester transfers. She found California State University, Bakersfield. As a bonus, Analyeli’s older sisters decided to move to Bakersfield with her to help her afford school and rent.

Although CSU Bakersfield didn’t offer Anayeli the same academic challenges as San Francisco State, it did employ a particular professor in whom Anayeli found another mentor. Professor Chang saw Anayeli’s potential immediately, as Anayeli was a stand-out in her classes. Both Juan and Professor Chang encouraged Anayeli to keep pursuing her dreams despite the unexpected detours along the way. Anayeli stayed on track and graduated with her bachelor’s degree in May 2020 after four years of college, and she has decided to continue furthering her education.

This fall, she will return to San Francisco State to pursue her master’s degree in Education Equity & Social Justice, and she has secured a grant to help cover most of the cost of her tuition. Anayeli said, “This master’s program was meant for me. I find it so fulfilling to see adults, teachers, and mentors treat kids like people, like individuals. I want to be an advocate for kids, to help ensure all students are treated fairly.”

After that, she may decide to keep going and pursue her doctorate. She said she can now see herself working with school boards and school districts to enact policies that help students on a broader scale.

Her key piece of advice: “Ask for help. It’s something we all need to get used to. Have a connection with someone who is on your side and only wants good things for you – a mentor, and ask that person for help or advice when you need it.”

Her encouragement to anyone considering joining College Bound: “Your future self will thank you tremendously. College Bound is so beneficial for any student in high school, it can open so many doors for you and help you find your pathway. It certainly did for me and it still does!”