I am a dual major in Children and Youth Studies and Political Science. I hope to be an advocate and fight for matters that are important to me. I have decided to pursue Children and Youth Studies because there are many children in Bangladesh, my native country that continue to suffer with little to no voice. I am fortunate enough to come to the United States and pursue education. But many children around the world are not as lucky. I hope to make a change in how children are viewed and treated in society. Thus, I decided to major in Political Science also, because in order to make a change I need to have the power to influence or be part of policymaking such as through activism.
I receive Pell, TAP, and I also work to put myself through school. The financial aid awards covered my higher education costs like tuition, textbooks. But it definitely does not cover my food, rent, and other living expenses. I work to cover my living expenses such as food and transportation. I have one job and I work 20 hours a week. It is hard to pay for commuting while paying tuition so I have to work. I would like to see the state support students with the other costs associated with college that people often forget about.
I love Pratt, but sometimes I feel frustrated that the institution doesn’t do a better job accommodating the financial needs of students. I’m commuting from Astoria, Queens to my classes because of the cost of housing here at Pratt. It was also really tough getting a work-study position. A lot of my friends weren’t able to either, and I think there should be more jobs available on campus. It’s difficult enough having to work while being a student, and I think Pratt could do a better job acknowledging that and supporting initiatives that help them. If there were a better work-study program, I would more easily be able to support myself through school.
I chose to attend SUNY ESF for a few different reasons, the biggest being cost. My father is a doctor, and he is still paying off the loans that he took out to go to medical school three decades later. I didn’t want to end up in a similar situation as him, being forced into debt for the rest of my life. But even at a SUNY school, it keeps getting more expensive to be a student. Our dorms are almost three times as much as tuition, and we are forced to live in them for our first year. Tuition is increasing, but there have been constant cuts to programs and opportunities that the school can provide for us.
I’m studying environmental science, and our textbooks cost so much! I don’t know how New York expects students like me to get our degrees while having so many extra costs. I was fortunate enough to receive an academic scholarship to ESF so I can avoid taking out loans or relying on my parents. This means that I need to dedicate extra time to my studies to keep the scholarship, which makes being able to get a part-time job very hard. I chose ESF to avoid going into debt, but with tuition hikes, living expenses, and the additional fees and materials I need to pay for, I don’t know if that is possible.
I was raised in Hempstead, NY in Long Island, in a town that’s most talked about as “chaotic” and “helpless.” I was raised in a family of six, with two Latino parents who came into this country with a different vision for my sisters and me—to pursue much more in this life.
We lived in a basement, all six of us. It was deteriorating and we had no stove, no refrigerator. We starved together; we cried together. Every night, I saw how much I was losing weight, and I just let it happen because I used all my funds just so that my family can eat. Senior year of high school came, and we were still in the basement. I received 6 scholarships, and to be honest, I didn’t use them for me. I used them to feed my family.
I wasn’t psyched about the milestones like high school graduation, but then I applied for an on-spot admissions to Long Island University, to the HEOP Program. I sat with Directors who questioned my reasons for wanting to be in college, and I answered them: “I want to support my family.” I became an HEOP student, and I received academic and financial support. This brought tears of joy. Upon my return back to Hempstead, my parents hugged me and told me, ”We are proud of you” in Spanish.
In 2018, everyone in my family went our separate ways, due to the financial burdens we kept facing. I wasn’t ready for the leap. I kept this secret from my family, but I became homeless and had to sleep inside my co-worker’s car because I had no funds and nowhere to stay. Now, in 2019, I rent a room in Hempstead, and I visit my family.
I am now a SEEK student at Queens College and transferred from LIU Post with a 3.5 GPA. Because of HEOP and SEEK, I can almost give my family and myself the better life we desired for a long time. Because of these programs, I am able to advocate for the youth in Hempstead and tell them that no matter how hard the trials are back at home, an education will heal them. It’s because of programs like HEOP and SEEK that I’ve gained confidence and the voice to share my story. As a SEEK student now, I am proud to say that I receive all the help I need from the SEEK program in Queens College.
We all have a story to share, and I am not politicizing this issue. I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am a human being that cares for all. Us students, who face immense poverty and some academic trails, need SEEK, HEOP, and EOP. Funding these programs will illuminate the lives of those who need support and help those who struggle and yet work multiple jobs, just to receive a degree.
Because of Queens College SEEK, I was able to share my story with you, and I thank you for your time. Please continue to fund these programs because the underrepresented need them.