By Samantha Silva
Boyle Heights Beat
Paying for college was the focus of this month’s Boyle Heights Beat community meeting, where a couple of speakers addressed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as well as scholarships, loans and other funding sources.
The meeting took place Saturday, January 23, at the Boyle Heights City Hall. A small number of community members –mostly students and their parents– came out to listen to experts speak about some of the difficulties of paying for college.
Speaking first, Boyle Heights Beat publisher Michelle Levander said the meeting’s topic was inspired by a story written by 15-year-old Alex Medina for the latest issue of Boyle Heights Beat. Medina also spoke, saying his story focused on the misconceptions surrounding FAFSA.
The first presenter was Silvestre Vallejo, director of the i.am College Track program in Boyle Heights, who spoke about some of the most common mistakes made by students applying for loans and scholarships. He said that some students fail to read about scholarship requirements before applying and find out at the last minute that they are not eligible. Vallejo also warned about the perils of procrastination; he said some students waited until the last minute to fill out applications and found out too late that they didn’t have all the information they needed.
Vallejo gave very useful tips and provided students with a number of useful websites, such as scholarships.com, fastweb.com, and scholarshipexperts.com, where students can find out about a number of scholarships available.
Following Vallejo’s presentation was Carmen Macías, an advisor at Torres High School in East Los Angeles. Macías went into some detail about FAFSA and who can apply for student aid. She also spoke about her personal experience as an undocumented college student and offered advice for students who qualify for aid through the California Dream Act.
Macías said she shares information on her Instagram page, @torosgotocollege.
The meeting was very informative to parents like Fernando Romero, who attended the meeting with his wife and teenage daughter, a junior at Óscar de la Hoya Ánimo High School who hopes to become the first in her family to go to college. Romero said he felt it was important for his family to help his oldest daughter make it to college, as a way of encouraging her siblings to follow her steps.
Romero lamented that more local parents did not take advantage of the informative session.
Samantha Silva, a junior at Roosevelt High School, is a teen reporter for Boyle Heights Beat.
Photo above: Students and parents attended the community meeting. All photos by Ernesto Orozco/Boyle Heights Beat.