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Carlos de la Rosa: A Long Journey to College Success

By Henry Street Settlement

Smiling young man

Carlos de la Rosa has never taken for granted the enormous sacrifice his parents made—leaving their homes and their culture in Mexico and Ecuador—so that their children could have better lives.

As a strong student growing up in Washington Heights, Carlos felt obligated to overcome any academic obstacles. “Every first-generation student feels this way,” he says, “Our goal was that I would go to college,” though he would be the first in his family to do so.

In Carlos’s junior year of high school in lower Manhattan, a team member from Henry Street’s Expanded Horizons College Success program spoke to his homeroom. “The team is with you before, during, and after college,” Carlos says. He and five friends agreed to join, taking the free SAT class together the next summer.

Expanded Horizons partnered with Carlos’s school college counselor to help him make his college list. When it came time to apply, he was nervous: “It was a lot of paperwork that no one in my family had ever gone through, but Expanded Horizons did the financial aid forms with me.”

When he was accepted to St. Bonaventure College in rural Western New York, one of his top choices, Carlos was relieved, but his parents were skeptical. They knew there were closer colleges, but he wanted to experience a new place and meet new types of people.

What convinced them was The Bernard Tannenbaum Memorial Scholarship, which Carlos was awarded by Henry Street. The yearly scholarship, combined with financial aid from the school, greatly decreased the student loan burden he would have to assume. A marketing major, he graduated in May 2018.

Like Carlos, 4,128 youth ages two to 21 received safe, structured educational services including preschool, afterschool programming, high-school attendance and graduation support, college preparation and follow-up, and computer training.

College graduation took place, appropriately, on Mother’s Day, and his mother cried tears of joy. Both parents had been driven six hours to the event by Carlos’s friends.

After eight job interviews, he was offered a position in August at Times Square Media, an advertising firm, where he is working as a digital trafficker, setting up digital advertising campaigns.

“Expanded Horizons was a huge helping hand; it opened doors that probably wouldn’t have been opened otherwise. I got to experience a whole different world in college,” he says.

The sacrifices Carlos’s parents made for their first-generation child have paid off: “It has been a long journey,” he says, “and the surprising thing is, it’s only getting started.”

Carlos’s is of the stories featured in our 2018 annual report. A link to come soon for more of these stories!

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