Empowered by an Education
Personally, I know how difficult it can be to put yourself through college. Many obstacles can stand in the way: Financial need and other hardships make a college degree impossible for many people. As a homeless teen and independent of my parents since age 17, I was considered an unconventional student. It was very difficult for me to receive financial aid because I needed my parents’ information and was still considered a dependent until I was 24. I delayed my education for years due to this obstacle. I struggled through minimum-wage jobs, yearning for a better future for myself. I knew the only way to get a better life would be to go back to school.
I have always had a passion for the health care field, so I decided to pursue a degree in radiology technology at Bellevue College. I found I could afford college through the assistance of scholarships and grants. However, many scholarships were hugely competitive and had selective requirements for specific majors. Last spring I was struggling to find funding for the winter term, and I was almost certain that I would once again have to delay my education. Then one day, I found a flyer on campus about an AAUW scholarship for women who had a lapse in their education due to hardship. At the time I was not familiar with AAUW, so I did some research. I was amazed to discover this wonderful organization that promoted education and equity for women and girls. I applied for a scholarship sponsored by the AAUW Kirkland-Redmond (WA) Branch, and I was absolutely overwhelmed with joy when I heard I would be one of two chosen recipients.
My journey with AAUW didn’t end with my scholarship. My local branch invited me to tea parties and luncheons, and I was soon immersed in a group of educated and dedicated women. They took me under their wings and mentored me. Their leadership and guidance helped me found my own campus student organization. I will be forever grateful to the women who helped me break down the barriers in my own life and gave me the hope to decide my own future. My experience with the AAUW branch inspired in me a need to become a part of something greater, and I applied for the AAUW National Student Advisory Council (SAC). Being a part of the SAC has renewed my dedication to my education and given me confidence. AAUW scholarships are essential to overcome the barrier of financial need for women like me who want to continue their education.
This post was written by 2012–13 National Student Advisory Council member Natasha Mercado.