By Dominique Vera
I’ve been a student in Long Beach, California from start to finish, all the way from pre-K to college. I’d like to think the City of Long Beach and the Long Beach College Promise have helped me complete my entire educational journey.
As a student at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, I was part of the Program of Additional Curricular Experiences (PACE), a program for academically advanced students. Though challenging, the program was amazing. I was surrounded by highly intelligent individuals and I was highly involved in high school. In addition to being serious about academics, I was active in extracurricular activities and was class president and a peer counselor.
At a young age, I was very motivated and knew that I wanted to pursue a career in business. I often traveled to New York to visit my mother’s side of the family and fell in love with the East Coast. I always knew that’s where I wanted to go to college. I got accepted into one of my dream schools, University of Massachusetts-Amherst. The papers were signed and everything was set for me to start my freshman year. But, as soon as I got there, the trouble came. I no longer had financial aid, meaning that my parents would have to take out a $15,000 loan. With both of my parents being immigrants from Ecuador, we did not have much money growing up. I have always been very independent and never wanted to rely on my parents for help, so I had to make the tough decision to move back to California.
It was one of the lowest points in my life, I was a college dropout. There was a point when I thought college was not possible anymore, even though I was an overachiever in high school. As I got back to Long Beach I started looking into my options to pursue a college education. I decided to stop by Long Beach City College even though classes for the Fall semester were already in session. I walked into the scholarship office and that’s when a counselor reminded me about the Long Beach College Promise. She said coming from a Long Beach High School I could enroll in the Spring semester at Long Beach City College. As a college promise student I was eligible to receive a free semester of college, in addition to counseling and book reimbursements. Going to the scholarship office and hearing about all the opportunities that the promise offered solidified my decision. Through the Long Beach College Promise I was able to pursue higher education when I did not think it was possible. At Long Beach City College I thrived in the honors program, and being around really motivated students inspired me. After a year and a half at Long Beach Community College, I transferred to California State University, Long Beach where I majored in international business.
In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted her Beating the Odds Summit bringing together successful organizations, schools, and education leaders across the country to discuss ways to create pathways for students to pursue higher level education. She invited the Long Beach College Promise and asked two students to speak about their experiences and how we beat the odds with initiatives like the Promise. It was great to share my story with education leaders and explain how the Promise has helped me in my personal and professional life, and how it’s grown my local community, the city of Long Beach, and the economy.
The Promise program allows so many students to pursue a pathway to education. When I was younger, I thought California State University, Long Beach was just a commuter school where people would come and go. But, now I see the school has really given life to Long Beach. More students are staying in the city. And the Promise gives thousands of students a second chance, to beat the odds and pursue a higher level education when it was not possible before. I know that it did for me. I was able to graduate in four years and now I’m a Marketing Programs Manager for an LED lighting company called Noribachi, living the dream.