Congratulations to Kimberly Ozuna who was surprised with the news that she won a $5,000 MONEY Magazine Scholarship at Central Scholarship’s Student Award Ceremony this month. Her name was announced on July 12th and with both parents in the audience, Kimberly excitedly received the check from Central Scholarship Chair, Michael Ward, and Central Scholarship Executive Director, Jan Wagner. The MONEY Magazine Scholarship competition asked students to write essays about their experience at COLLEGE CASH 101 — a financial literacy event held in March. Kimberly is a student at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The first three winners — Michael Greene, Ashley Banks, and Makruma Islam, were announced in previous months. Kimberly’s winning essay is below.
I would like to begin by showing my appreciation for the College Cash event. It challenged me academically and emotionally to push further to reach my highest potential. I really enjoyed the wonderful speakers who were able to speak to us about their different experiences in college and where they are today. It helped me get a new perspective on the importance of college and how to manage the financial burden that comes along with it. One of the speakers, Myra Halloway, a Human Resources Client Consultant, said, “If you do what you love, then you don’t have to work another day in your life.” This quote stuck with me because doing what you love is something everyone wants to achieve and accomplish in their life, but many times they do not have the right tools or are unsure of how to attain this desirable career path. I was able to go to the Breakout session called “Finding Money for College.” I decided to go to this session because I knew it would benefit my parents, who are currently struggling with paying for college. My brother and I are both attending college at the same time and I know it is hard on my father who has to support us and my other four siblings.
During my senior year in college, I was accepted to nine schools, so I had a variety of options to pick from and many financial aid letters to look at. The smartest thing to do, especially in our financial situation, is to go to school in-state. However, as a young high school student ready to get away from her parents and get the college experience everyone was talking about, I chose to go to an out-of-state school in Virginia. After the first semester, I decided the school was not for me and to help my parents with the tuition fee, I transferred back to Maryland. Now I attend University of Maryland, Baltimore County and if I could go back in time I would have attended this school instead of the one in Virginia for the reason that I received more financial aid. At the session, Angela Harrison and Jennifer Bauer shared important information about the types of college cash, need-based, and merit-based aid. College students are sometimes unaware of these different forms of way to pay for school. As a result, they graduate from college with large amount of debt and loans. Since the discussion, I have become more aware of these types of aid and will try to avoid college debt.
This event has also taught me how to build wealth after college by setting goals, creating a budget, and creating a personal financial statement. Another quote that remains with me, said by Joe Kontoff is, “People’s success is due to ability, timing, and practice.” I also learned the importance of maintaining a relationship with the people you meet as a key component in creating a network with them, because you never know when those people will benefit you in the future. For instance, my high school counselor has always helped me throughout the school year, telling me about scholarship opportunities. In my junior year, he nominated me for a program called Collegiate Directions Inc. This program is a non-profit organization dedicated to help students whose families are financially struggling and need more assistance for students going to college. During the application process for college, they helped me find resources to help pay for the SAT test fee and the college application fee. This was really helpful, especially when I had applied to nine schools. This bond with CDI last from high school through college, communicating through emails. My relationship with Mr. Thompson also is intact till this day. I remember when I was in school in Virginia and he would call me to see how I am doing and talk to me about my other options if I wanted to transfer. It was nice to know that if I needed any counsel, I could count on him. Now in school I make sure to get along with everyone and network as much as possible.
Next year, it would be nice to talk about other options if college is not affordable for some students. Also, find ways to help those students who struggle financially and help them find programs such as CDI, to help families with low income. This is very important because as our economy is getting worse it becomes harder for students to even think about going to college, since they have to help their families with their basic needs. So as a result, many students do not have the time or motivation to go to school because they cannot afford it, and instead they get jobs to support their families. However, I know if more people are educated in ways to help these students then it will have a ripple effect and circulate to other people, forming a network that strives to make sure these students are not burdened by financial reasons and are given the chance to get an education like everyone else.