New Mission High School
I moved to Boston in 1992 from Haiti with my mother. My father was already living in Boston for about three years and because he couldn't afford to bring the entire family to Boston, we had to leave my five brothers in Haiti. I was excited because I was finally going to see my dad, nervous because I wasn't sure what to expect, and sad because I was leaving my brothers and I didn't know when I would see them again. Once in Boston, my parents and I lived with my aunt and uncle in Mattapan.
The only English words I knew back then were "yes" and "good." Fortunately with the help of shows like Sesame Street, Barney, and Lamb Chops Play Along, I was able to gain a basic understanding of the language before starting Elementary School. My responsibilities, though unspoken, were very clear: Do well in school and help my parents by being their personal translator. I frequently read the mail and talked to the phone and gas companies. I can also remember completing a job application for my mother for the Eliot Hotel when I was eleven.
My parents were not very involved in my education because of the language barrier. As a result, I made sure to behave so that they didn't have to meet with the principal. In 9th grade, I applied to attend a pilot school called New Mission High School because I didn't want to go to Dorchester High, also known as "Dumbchester" among my peers.
During my junior year of high school, my principal introduced me to Bottom Line, which at the time was located on the first floor of the building. He told me that Dave, Bottom Line's founder, would help me apply to college. I knew that I wanted to go college but I didn't know where to begin, and I didn't think my parents would be able to afford it. In my senior year, I took advantage of Bottom Line by taking the SAT classes and going on campus visits. Dave helped me apply to Lesley University and when I was nominated for the Posse Foundation Scholarship, he walked me through that application process as well. With Bottom Line's help the application process was a lot smoother. I only applied to two schools, Lesley University and Bowdoin College. I was accepted and offered a full-tuition scholarship to both schools.
I decided to attend Bowdoin College. My parents were happy that I received the scholarship and they told me that they would do their best to help pay for my other college expenses. When it was time to move to campus, my parents packed the RAV4 with my things and we headed to Brunswick, Maine. They didn't stay too long, but my mother did take the time to make my bed and reminded me to focus on school. That was the only time my parent's visited Bowdoin College until my graduation. I feel grateful that they allowed their only daughter to go off to college in the middle of nowhere. And by the way, my mother did get that job at the Eliot Hotel and works there to this day.
Throughout my college career, Bottom Line continued to keep in touch with me while I was on campus. I received regular phone calls, birthday and holiday cards, and care packages. So while my parents weren't present, I always felt connected to home through this organization that seemed so interested in my progress.
When I graduated from Bowdoin College, I was offered a job as the Assistant Director of Residential Life and I worked there for two years. In that role, I was able to support students as they transitioned to campus. Then two years ago, out of the blue, I got a call from Bottom Line's Executive Director Greg Johnson saying that they were expanding their staff and wondering what I was up to. After thinking about my role in fulfilling the Bottom Line mission to help low-income, first-generation students get in to college, graduate, and go far in life, it didn't take me long to know that I wanted to join that effort. I am now the Site Director of Bottom Line's Worcester office.
After a few years at Bottom Line, I have met hundreds of students whose stories remind me so much of my own. I love this job because I was once in those shoes and I understand what they are going through. It's easy to see that I'm making a difference because after just one meeting our students leave feeling relieved that they have someone on their corner. Getting in to and graduating from college is not only possible, but probable.