Meet Briana & Debra

At the end of junior year, Briana was nominated by her counselor at Ossining High School to join the Latino U Scholars program. She was matched with her volunteer College Coach, Debra, and throughout the fall, the pair would meet weekly at the Ossining Public Library to develop Briana’s college list, work on applications, share book recommendations, and discuss current events.

“I feel so lucky that I have someone to talk to about the stress of college admissions. I couldn’t talk to my family about college applications in-depth, but Debra was always there to offer her advice and support, whether it be about college or anything else. She makes me feel confident even when I doubt myself,” Briana reflects.

Born in Ecuador, Briana was two years old when she immigrated to the United States with her mother; they have lived in Ossining ever since. Family has always been Briana’s number one motivation to pursue higher education, as they sacrificed so much for her to have better opportunities. “As the first person in my immediate family to graduate from high school and go to college, I want to be a role model for my younger brother and sister, so that they may be inspired to follow in my footsteps.”

Debra is an alumna of Cornell University and has been a volunteer College Coach for two years now. Both years have been incredibly fulfilling, as Debra has helped introduce first-generation students to the incredible opportunities before them, especially at schools they may never have considered before. “There are no words to express how gratifying it is to help Scholars recognize their own potential and achieve their dreams. The best part is making a friend in the process!”

Even while practicing social distancing, Debra continues to support Briana through phone conversations and text messages. After submitting 23 college applications and receiving 19 acceptances (so far!), Briana and Debra have shifted their focus to preparing for scholarship interviews – she is currently a finalist for the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, the Gates Scholarship, and the Handler Scholarship at the University of Rochester – and deciding on which school will be the best academic, social, and financial fit for Briana.

Briana recalls, “as a first-gen student, my parents only knew the big names like Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. I was very lost at the beginning of the process and had no idea which schools I wanted to apply to or what to look for in a school. Debra is a big advocate of finding the school that is right for me personally. She helped me determine that what I really want is a small school with a tight-knit community and a learning environment that is more collaborative than competitive.”

Debra firmly believes that the “sky’s the limit” for Briana. Her hope is that Briana will be happy and feel fulfilled in whatever she chooses to do. “Honestly, it has been a pleasure getting to know this wonderful, bright, kind, giving young woman, who succeeds in everything she does yet always considers others first. Opening her eyes to her own potential and watching her grow and become more confident has been the best part of this experience,” says Debra.

Once in college, Briana plans to pursue law after earning a bachelor’s degree in history. Her career dream is to work in litigation or become an immigration lawyer. “Ultimately, I want to give back to the Latino community and help others the way Latino U College Access has helped me.”

Stay tuned to find out where Briana will decide to make her college dreams a reality!