Once Upon a Time I Lost a Dream. By Karla Delgado
Below is a short memoir written by current LaSalle student and graduate of Kensington Business High School, Karla Delgado followed by an interview. Karla has worked for the past semester as an AVID tutor at Munoz Marin school and has worked with PHENND to share her story with high schoolers and bring to light issues of college access, high school engagement and inequality in Philadelphia this year. Though college access is definitely not the only topic Karla writes about, she always has social issues in mind. Karla’s stories come from her individual experiences but they resonated strongly with many of the 8th graders we worked with at Marin and I know they will resonate with all of you working on these issues in Philadelphia.
The writing of other students will also be a regular feature in Aine’s (Bryn Mawr, 2015) posts as well as the K-16 Newsletter on a regular basis.
*Karla (LaSalle, 2015) is in the back corner, helping Ciera Boyce (West Chester, 2015) and Alex McNeil (Temple, 2012) to facilitate a discussion on diversity in college for Next Steps with students from Lincoln and Fels high schools.
Once Upon a Time I Lost a Dream
By Karla Delgado
There have been many difficult situations in my life. However, the most difficult decision I ever had to make was giving up my dream school due to financial difficulties. I was a queen and had finally found my castle, Arcadia University, but my reign would be short-lived. I was dethroned very soon.
I remember the day I got accepted to my dream school. I could not believe it. It felt like all the hard work I had put in for two whole years had finally paid off. After working so hard for months I received the letter stating that I was accepted to the Gateway program at my dream school. I cried and smiled. No one could have been happier than I was.
Part of my pride and happiness came because no one had believed in me. I clearly remember when I told my counselor that I was finally in. She gave me a nasty look and asked if I was sure. I replied that I was sure and showed her the letter. Her next remark was, “How are you going to pay for it?” I did not know what to do so I applied for a Sallie Mae loan. I did not care if I was going to be in debt for years, I was going to Arcadia University.
When another useless counselor asked me about Arcadia University and I mentioned the loan I was hoping to get from Sallie Mae he told me those were the worst people to ask for money. I looked at him in shock, after not helping me he criticized me. How in the world was I supposed to know that? I thought I was in for sure and now money was all everyone was talking about.
After about two months, I had my final visit to Arcadia University. My mother and sister were there, they were so pleased with my choice. It was during my financial aid consultation that my dream came crashing down. What I was likely to get as financial aid was twenty thousand dollars. The school would cost about forty-five thousand dollars, including room and board. So my mom started crying because at that moment she knew we had no way to afford that and they would never get a loan for that much money approved. I tried to take it well but I felt like giving up.
After a time of deep thought I thought I was going to give up for sure, but one of the few excellent teachers I still had helped me. I was told that La Salle University could take me. La Salle being a private school, just like I wanted, seemed good. It was when I discovered the BUSCA program that I realized the only way I was going to afford La Salle was through it.
I still think about Arcadia University, but my mother always says that things happen for a reason. Maybe as hard as it might be I was never meant to be at my dream school. I feel like my place is at La Salle and I know I will do great things. The most valuable lesson I got from this horrible experience was to never give up. Even if the odds are against you go for it and dream. There are many twists and turns but I know that dreams do come true.
Q&A with Karla
Q: What are the qualities of the teachers and adult mentors that helped you with this process? What work did you do to build those relationships?
A: The teachers and mentors who helped me through the process were very dedicated individuals, who would go above and beyond for their students. These teachers often had similar stories to mine and knew how important having support is. To these teachers I was much more than another student. I was a friend, and often they would see me as one of their children. They could see that excitement I had whenever I talked about college and they knew I had no way to make it happen if I was alone.
One of the most supportive teachers I had was my American history teacher. He shared his higher education story with me. Once he revealed to me that he was from the Kensington neighborhood, I felt a spark of hope. Not only was he from the neighborhood, he attended community college for two years but then attended Temple University where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in education and history. Today, he lives with his wife and son in a beautiful home in New Jersey. I will always remember when he told me that with education I will make my dreams come true, and leave the neighborhood just like he did. It is words like that which make students keep going.
Q: After making it through your freshman year of college, what is one goal you have for your next year of college?
A: After making it through my freshman year at La Salle University, being in the Dean’s list and sharing my passion for writing with others my goals for next year are to do even better. I want to get over a lot of my insecurities such as mathematics and public speaking, and expose my true potential. I want to learn as much as possible in all of my classes, because to be a great teacher one must be an amazing student.
Q: Would you recommend that high school and college students do service opportunities? Why?
A: I would highly recommend high school and college students to get involved in service opportunities. I can assure that anyone who is involved in service opportunities is bound to learn about themselves. I learned a lot about myself during my time at Marin being an AVID tutor. Most importantly, I learned that when someone similar to you tells you their story, you will listen. I told my students at Marin that they should never let anyone limit their options or tell them their dreams are not possible, and maybe at the time it did not make absolute sense but one day it will. Working with them made me realize how crucial having that circle of support from teachers and mentors really was, and continues to be. The biggest lesson I learned this past year was that, it does not matter where you are from what does matter is where you are going.
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