We recently checked in on three of our past scholars to see what they’re doing now and to find out how the Blavin Scholars program has helped them succeed. Here is the first half of our interviews with Blavin Scholars Chris, Cherish and Jessica. Come back next week to read the second half of our discussion.
Chris S. was our very first Blavin Scholar. He attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – earning a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Studies in 2006 and a Master of Science in Safety Science in 2009.
Cherish F. graduated from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in 2009 with a B.A. in Sociology and a minor in African American Studies.
Jessica H. graduated from Northern Arizona University in 2013 with a Bachelors of Science in History, with minors in Anthropology, International Affairs, and Psychology.
Catch us up on what you’ve been doing since graduation.
Chris: “I am now currently employed as a System Safety Engineer for Orbital ATK which is a very rewarding job and I am happy to be working in a career field I enjoy. I still struggle with life – I’m still not particularly adept at “adulting” and unfortunately some of the baggage I still carry with me tends to rear it’s head from time to time. However, in general things are going well and I’m able to face each day with a positive attitude and an eye to the future when life gets more fun.”
Cherish: “After graduating, I matriculated right into the UM School of Social Work earning a MSW as a Child Welfare Scholar and Olivia P. Maynard Fellow in 2011. Right after I started working in Detroit as a social worker, first in the Justice system working with youth. Then I moved on to working in Child Welfare. I currently work in a female residential in the city of Detroit called House of Providence which serves girls in foster care ages 10-17. I’ve been here for two years. I am the first social worker and helped to develop the department that handles case management, earning two years of exceptional audits by the state.”
Jessica: “Since graduating I’ve been able to do a lot of interesting things, always slowly moving towards my long-term career goals. I was fortunate enough to move out to Los Angeles with Paul and Amy’s support and start internships with women’s rights and sex education. I’m learning a lot, though I want to continue working within the field of women’s rights long term. I’m hopefully planning on moving to India for six months to a year working with a nonprofit that works to empower impoverished women through education and skill building for economic independence as well as educating the local kids.”
Do you feel your life would be different today if you hadn’t received a college degree?
Chris: “It was certainly a great experience and I learned a lot, not just in the classroom, but in life as well. I certainly would never had the opportunity to touch the stars as I do today…”
Cherish: “Yes, I know my life would be different today if I hadn’t received a college degree. Funny thing is I think about this all the time when I reflect on my life. I’m grateful for my degree because I have never been jobless, I have enhanced my ability to develop and maintain relationships, and I have always looked to see what opportunities I can create for others to benefit. Without my degree, I would not have had the exposure to the things I learned in college. My experiences in addition to my academics were priceless. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, but also gave me the opportunities to explore who I could be. In that opportunity I became a better me and now from that experience and accomplishing my degree I have made history in my family and have set a new standard for the generations after me. That is POWERFUL and the greatest difference my degree has made because I saw opportunities and I made a choice to use my degree to change my story.”
Jessica: “I absolutely believe my life will be different without going to university. Not only did I get to get a college education, but I made incredible lifelong friends, I got to have opportunities I never would’ve dreamed of like studying abroad in Ghana or going to China to learn about international relations and diplomacy, or learn about the LSAT at advantage testing partnered with Harvard university and NYU, I learned life skills and career skills in the safe environment where I could test and push myself, and I have the ability to explore what I really want in life. I loved college and I’m hoping to go back for masters degree soon.”
Aside from financial support, how else did the Blavin Scholars program help you?
Chris: “My biggest take away from the Blavin Scholars program was the sense that there were people in the world who genuinely cared about my success. It was a shock that these two people whom I’d never met not only wanted to help me but also wanted to meet me and get to know me. Then, when when I met Paul and Amy I was presented with two warm, genuine and caring people who were really interested in me as a person. It was a really great feeling and something that I’ve carried with me and something I strive to be.”
Cherish: “I have had great experiences with Paul and Amy who came to campus, took us out, acknowledged us and cared about us and what we needed and interests us. We mattered to them and I enjoyed being able to build a relationship with them and them being so available and apart. Anyone that knows them, see that they did this from the heart not for acknowledgement to help “poor foster kids” but to invest in lives that matter in the world. Being apart inspired me to do my part to ensure other foster care Alum know that college is possible and worth it to attain a more successful life.”
Jessica: “The Blavin program provided a constant support throughout my college career – not just on an academic level, but in accessing resources in the community and for emotional support as well. On my birthday, they would take me out and make me feel special when I had no one around that I loved. Holidays are an amazing experience in the Blavin Scholar family at NAU. Getting to eat with and spend time with each other, the program supports, Paul, Amy, and even sometimes their kids was so fun. When I was going through depression after I experience some trauma, they helped me not only find a therapist but also offered me emotional support themselves, letting my cry in their office.”
We are so proud of these three Blavin Scholars and just love hearing about their lives. Be sure to return next week for the second part of these interviews!