Carolina Bonilla '10
Hostos Community College ASAP '10
John Jay College '12, Public Administration Major
Intern, Office of Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer
I spent my childhood in New York City and then moved to Puerto Rico for about seven years. During that time I had to drop out of high school because at the age of 17 I had a daughter who was diagnosed with multiple disabilities and I didn’t see myself finishing school with all the responsibility I had with her. I got divorced and came to New York City; I went through the shelter system and got an apartment; I found my soul mate and had a second child. After I felt stable, I struggled to achieve my GED with Grace Outreach. It took me about a year and when I finished they helped me apply to Hostos Community College.
When I was applying to Hostos, I came across a table in the admissions office with pamphlets on the ASAP program, so I decided to apply with the help of Grace Outreach. I was very excited to learn about all the benefits that the program had. In my eyes I felt I was applying for a scholarship. I also felt that I would really have a chance to succeed. I had a lot of responsibilities including my daughter’s needs and my toddler, and I had also just gotten engaged. But it seemed to me that ASAP covered every possible excuse a person would give to not study.
In ASAP I had the benefits of a steady schedule that guaranteed me getting home on time to get my children from school. I was able to do tutoring, which helped me complete any assignments I had, and helped me feel like I had a definite chance of doing well in all my classes. I usually tried to finish my assignments before going home so they wouldn’t interfere with my other responsibilities. The free metro card was another helpful benefit. And a very important aspect of ASAP is the team that worked with us, including advisors, directors, and the job developer.
ASAP provided the kind of support that helped me deal with what went on in my life and as a student. I had an advisor, Edwin Diaz, who was terrific. He used to call me if I missed a class to see if everything was okay, if I had someone to catch up with, or if I needed any help. ASAP became like a special family to me; they gave me so much support, and I believe this is very important because college is scary and you don’t know what to expect from it. And having a group of people there—no matter what—to help, to give advice, or at least to point you in the right direction is really helpful.
After I graduated from Hostos I transferred to John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I am pursuing a B.A. in Public Administration with a concentration in managerial oversight and investigations. I am also working on a psychology minor, and I have just been accepted to a peer counseling program for the upcoming semesters. Through work-study this past year I have been gaining experience in the John Jay payroll department.
ASAP opened my eyes by showing me that I am capable of accomplishing things. ASAP helped me root out my strengths and explore different areas of work. I learned to network and how to act professionally, thanks to the job developer Ms. Berkis, and in a way ASAP helped me to become that person I had always wanted to be. When I transferred to John Jay and had to actually do everything on my own, like register, explore the campus, and pick my classes, I wasn’t as scared because I felt I was strong enough to do things on my own. In the long run I can say that ASAP gave me the chance, it didn’t give up on me, and it helped me achieve something that made me feel like I can achieve anything. While at ASAP I received honorary mentions from Kaplan University, the Wachovia Scholarship, the Home Depot Scholarship, and the NYCHA Scholarship. I also received awards for being a peer tutor and was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society. I am very proud of my accomplishments; thanks to ASAP I was able to experience them.