We are proud to empower and support Boston and Worcester students so they can achieve college and career success. The students we serve come from a variety of backgrounds and have many different career interests, yet they all share one goal: to get into college, graduate from college, and go far in life.

We invite you to meet some of our incredible students by reading their stories of success.

Paola Valdez - "...working toward getting the knowledge that no one in my family has."

When Paola Valdez joined the Bottom Line Access Program in 2018, she was proud to be attending college, something she says her family members wished they could do when they were her age. She looked forward to being someone her nieces and nephews could look up to. She decided to enroll at the University of Massachusetts Boston to pursue a degree in Psychology. Paola remembers feeling relieved her senior year of high school, “my college [essay] was already done...Bottom Line placed me, and to this day, puts me ahead of the game.”  

As Paola entered Bottom Line’s Success Program, she continued to leverage her Advisor to find necessary resources and attend Career Connections Networking Events, like the Empowering the Next Generation Women’s Event. She’s motivated to forge new paths for her and her family: “As a first-generation college student, I see myself as a Latina woman who is working towards getting the knowledge no one in my family has, like taking a finance course to handle my money better, finding resources to become the first homeowner in my family, and passing on the knowledge I collect.” 

Paola is set to graduate in 2024. As she looks ahead to her future, she’s thrilled to utilize her culture and her degree to find a career she’s passionate about. “I am super proud to say I am an Afro-Latina...I am fluent in my native language... The aspiration I have is to work by serving people... because as a person that comes from a different background, I have great respect and understanding of people’s beliefs and culture.” Paola is particularly interested in serving Latino communities, assuring people have access to resources regardless of language barrier.  

As Paola looks toward graduation, she reflects on the impact of being a Bottom Line student: “Bottom Line has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”  

Bottom Line is thrilled to cheer Paola on as she continues her path to graduation and finding a perfect first destination career fit. With students like Paola, the future is first gen. 


Saul Garcia – "I hope to be a great example for those people that fight everyday and live unpredictable lives and still manage to dig deep and make something happen."

John D. O'Bryant High School - Worcester Polytechnic Institute

I was born and raised in Jamaica Plain alongside my mother, her boyfriend, and two sisters. We lived in a two-bedroom home, and two girls beat one guy, so I spent my nights sleeping on a couch. I never got along with my mom's boyfriend and eventually he decided it was time for me to go. I was a junior in high school and they decided to send me to live with my father, a man who I didn't know. My gut feeling told me I couldn't let this happen and instead I moved in with a friend and his father who had an extra room for me in their house to rent. My life was forever changed and I had to learn how to support myself.

I got a job at Sears selling electronics while I was at the John D. O'Bryant high school and participating in football and track. It took a toll on me, and I had to work hard. It was then that my personality and future began to take shape. I started to research the products and the technology that I was responsible to sell, but as I learned more, I also realized I was becoming interested in electronics. While I was working 40 hours a week to make money, keeping up with school, and mastering electronics I developed many new relationships and the ability to communicate with people. Somehow, I made things work like that for nearly two years! I continued to work hard in school. I grinded through AP and Honors classes and earned a 3.6 GPA, after going 2.0 my freshman year. The next step was to get into college.

Everyone at my high school, and I mean everyone who was thinking about college, was going to this place called Bottom Line. Finally, I found myself at the office partnered with Miguel as my advisor. The first thing we did was create a college list. Miguel knew I had an interest in engineering and "making things happen," so he told me to consider a school called WPI. He told me it was located in a strange and faraway place called Worcester. Bottom Line assisted me with getting my application done in a timely manner and writing an essay that made me realize how hard my life had been. I was accepted into 6 of 8 schools (one of my rejections was from MIT and someday I want to show them what they missed in me). Instead, I chose WPI; but I had one more problem—tuition. WPI costs $50,000 dollars a year and I was only making $7/ hour plus commission at Sears.

Despite many calls to the financial aid office by Bottom Line, I was not given the right to claim independent status. Day after day they worked to address my situation. It's kind of funny what I was told by the staff person at the WPI financial aid office: They could not grant me independent status because my story was too hard to believe. They shared that their job would be at risk making that decision. It hurts when you need help and your life is "too hard to believe," so I told her, "Thank you, have a great day." It wasn't until this year, after 4 years of living on my own, that they granted me independent status. But all was not lost. Thanks to Bottom Line, I was nominated for the Hayden Scholarship and the TPI Scholarship. Thankfully, both committees "took a risk" on me and helped to fund my education to attend WPI. Without the support of Bottom Line and their partners, that would not have been possible.

Adapting to college life was difficult. I was surrounded by so many intelligent individuals, but communication was a problem. No one spoke to me. I was cut short because others were more knowledgeable. You get a sad lonely feeling when you have no parents to call, no friends to talk to, and it feels like it's just you against the world. I felt overlooked because I was "a city kid" and people thought I was representing an MTV reality show. Well, my life is not a show, and I was not going to change just to belong. It's hard to live "the college life" with no money, no home, and no one you can trust.

Bottom Line did wonders for me because as much as I wanted something big to happen, the little things they did got me going. They sent out care packages with the food and candies that I wouldn't buy myself because I had to be conservative with money. I received holiday cards, birthday cards, and inspirational cards. One card quoted Larry Bird: "If you give 100 percent all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end." That card couldn't have come at a better time. As part of the TPI scholarship, Bottom Line sends me a $150 check each month during the school year to help out with the little things that I need. When I get this check I go out, usually by myself to celebrate with a nice meal, because that $150 dollars gave me a fresh chance to survive one more month.

For each of the last two summers, Bottom Line connected me to Sun Life Financial to work as an intern. This was my first chance to work in a professional office building and it taught me incredible lessons about the working world. One summer Wes Thompson, the CEO at the time, took the time to eat lunch with all of the Bottom Line interns. When I got the chance, I asked him about how he got to the top. Well, he didn't let me in on all his secrets, but what I heard him say was that it's not just about going straight to the top, it's better to understand what's important and work hard-real hard-and someday you will be noticed.

I share my story because I want to be noticed, but also because I don't want my kids to grow up the way I had to. Through hard work, change does come. At WPI, I majored in Electrical and Computer Engineering. During one spring, I worked on a project in Boston with engineers and other students to create a plan to adapt our drinking and wastewater systems to climate change. Me, Saul, "a city kid!" having an impact like that was amazing!

One day I will have a wonderful family, I will be successful, and prove that these stereotypes can be broken. I hope to be a great example for those people that fight everyday and live unpredictable lives and still manage to dig deep and make something happen. I've had too many people leave my life. But Bottom Line never gave up calling me, emailing me, and "stalking" me. When I ran out of money and life got so hard that I just wanted to be left alone, they always found me. It makes me feel like there is someone out there that sees something in me, that cares about me, and understands that life doesn't stop after you get into college.

Valduvino Goncalves – Great grades, scholarships lead to Master's in School Counseling

John D. O'Bryant High School—Northeastern University

Valdy was a hardworking senior at John D. O'Bryant High School with a 3.1 GPA. He learned about Bottom Line through friends who were participating in our College Access Program and came to our offices for help applying to college.

Valdy was determined to pursue a college education as an opportunity for self-improvement and contributing to his community. With help from his Bottom Line advisor, Claudine, he created a list of prospective local colleges that would allow him to remain near his mother and the city he grew up in. As a high-achieving student, Valdy applied to competitive colleges such as Tufts University, Harvard University, and Boston College. Because he relied on earnings from a single parent, his mother, and his own job at Target, Valdy was worried about financing his education. Claudine made sure that he applied to affordable state schools such as UMass Boston. He also decided to apply early action to his dream school, Northeastern University.

Valdy was a little disheartened when he was deferred to regular decision at Northeastern, but ecstatic when he was eventually accepted. In order to afford his dream school, Claudine helped him apply for local scholarships such as the Phillips Memorial Scholarship, the Charles Hayden Scholarship, and the Yawkey Scholarship, among others. With $10,000 from the Phillips Memorial Scholarship and $10,000 from the Charles Hayden Scholarship, Valdy was able to begin attending Northeastern in the fall of 2008.

While at Northeastern, Valdy worked hard to earn a 3.5 GPA. He studied Human Services and began working toward his goal of becoming a guidance counselor or principal in the Boston Public Schools, where he once attended. Outside the classroom, Valdy continued to work at Target, refereed intramural basketball games, served as Vice President of the Cape Verdean Student Association, worked as a Lead Supervisor at GOTCHA, a network of six nonprofit organizations in Roxbury and Dorchester that work to enhance the economic power of youth and families, and even completed a co-op at Bottom Line as an Access Advisor.

Valdy loves working with kids and has continued to pursue his goal of becoming a guidance counselor or school administrator. He completed his college degree in 2012 and began a Master's Program in School Counseling in the fall of 2012.

Sheneita Graham — From Bottom Line student to program advisor

Sharon High School (METCO) - Boston College

Sheneita grew up in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Boston. Through The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) program in Boston she was able to enroll in school outside of the city. She says, "Attending Sharon Public Schools was a major culture shock. My Hyde Park neighborhood consisted of mainly Hispanic and Black people living on meager incomes. Sharon is home to a large affluent Jewish population."

Sheneita sought Bottom Line's help after she heard about the organization from a friend. "I was always a good student and realized at an early age that my success was dependent on a college degree." With help from her Bottom Line advisor, Sheneita applied to Duke University, Barnard College, and Boston College, among others. "Bottom Line helped me stay focused and on schedule for applying to all seven of my schools. I would go to the office after school and get right to work on my essays. I had completed all my applications by December and felt great about it." After receiving decision letters and reviewing financial aid awards, she decided to attend Boston College.

Sheneita immediately enjoyed her classes at BC. She declared her major in Political Science and joined the Black Student Forum, the marching and pep bands, and a mentoring club for pre-law students. At the end of her first year, she applied to the Boston Lawyers Group to intern at a law firm during the summer. Although she was not accepted for this opportunity, Bottom Line was able to connect her to Sun Life Financial. She was hired as an International Operations Intern for their Bermuda Division.

In her sophomore year, Sheneita maintained a high GPA while continuing to play trombone in band, work at BC's African and African Diaspora Studies Department, and take six classes. She spent time working with homeless and street-involved teens at a community center in Cambridge and travelled to New Orleans during winter break to help with the relief for Katrina victims.

Sheneita was also an active member of the NAACP. "As a member of my school's chapter, I hosted a program where we invited a group of students from Hyde Park HS to our campus for a tour and presentations on pertinent information for higher education. During that event I worked with students who did not know the first thing about applying to colleges. Many of them assumed college was too expensive and would not be in their future. This experience made me realize how important programs like Bottom Line are and the individual advisors whose job it is to completely change that mentality."

Toward the end of her sophomore year, Sheneita applied to the Boston Lawyers Group again and was hired as a Paralegal Intern. She spent the summer conducting research for Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and even participated in a mock deposition.

During Sheneita's remaining time at BC, she participated in Delta Sigma Theta and studied abroad for a semester. "My advisor Sarah helped me when I ran short on time to complete my FAFSA and had to leave to study abroad in South Africa. She stayed in contact with my mother even while I was away, and they finished up my FAFSA. I'll never forget that."

Upon graduating in 2010, she decided to postpone applying to law school to gain some additional job experience. Sheneita applied to work at Bottom Line and was hired as a College Advisor, a position she held for two years. "Because I know how beneficial one-on-one help was for me with the college application process, financial aid, and even resume boosting, I was able to provide that same one-on-one attention to students in whatever situation they needed me as an advisor."

Odalis Polanco—Learning English plus community service equals inspiration for future graduates

Odalis grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States with his family 9 years ago. He lived with his mom and sister in Jamaica Plain. He learned to speak English during his junior and senior years of high school. "But I only spoke when I needed to," he says.

He first came to Bottom Line after hearing about the organization from his guidance counselor at English High School. During his senior year, Odalis visited Bottom Line to receive help applying to college. He applied to Salem State University, Northeastern University, Suffolk University, UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Boston College. After receiving acceptance letters to many of these schools, Odalis' advisor helped him apply for financial aid. On the recommendation of his advisor , Odalis also applied for the TORCH Scholars Program at Northeastern University. Odalis was selected for this program and enrolled in Northeastern in the fall of 2006. Through TORCH, Odalis received a full-tuition scholarship each year.

Odalis became very involved when he reached campus. He participated in organizations such as Orientation Assistance for International Students (OASIS), the Latin American Student Organization (LASO), and the Legacy Mentoring Program. While Odalis immersed himself at Northeastern, he also confronted his struggle with the English language. As time went on and he worked hard in his classes, Odalis' English greatly improved. He declared his major in International Business and focused on Accounting within these studies.

During sophomore year, Odalis travelled to Jamaica on alternative spring break. While there, he built playgrounds for several schools on the island. He also spent time with the local students and their families. This was a great experience for Odalis and it fed his passion for helping others.

During his third year, Odalis completed his first co-op, working at Pioneer Investments. He also founded an on-campus organization called the Dominican Republic Youth Volunteer Efforts (DRYVE). Through DRYVE, Odalis and the other organization members travelled to the Dominican Republic to complete community service projects. The group was comprised of 15 members and Odalis served as the president.

Odalis studied abroad in Puebla, Mexico, during his junior year. He continued to excel in his studies while there, receiving As and Bs in his classes. He also completed another co-op, working at textile company in the city.

Odalis graduated from Northeastern University in May of 2011 as part of the inaugural class of TORCH scholars. He has joined the staff at MathWorks, a developer of technical computing software, as a Revenue Accounting and Controls Associate. Odalis continues to be an active member of the Bottom Line community by volunteering and sharing his college experiences with high school seniors who aspire to achieve the same success he has.