As she nears her first year of college, SLI scholar Keiry (Harrisonburg High School ’23, University of Virginia ’25) talks about how she’s grown as a person over the last four years. At UVA she will study political science on a pre-law track.
Congrats on graduating from high school! How are you feeling about going to college?
When I first started SLI I was like I know I want to go to college. We went through the steps. [SLI program directors] Dr. Alemán and Ms. Bowman helped me through it. Whenever anything came up, I could go to Wednesday SLI or I could go to Saturday SLI and I could be like, “Hey, this is happening.”
I love meeting new people. I love talking to new people. And I love school. That is my biggest goal: becoming super involved with the campus my first year.
It’s going to be a whole new environment. I’ve been to UVA, I’ve toured the campus, but it’s not the same as living there and being a full-time student there. That’s definitely scary to think about because I’m not even going to be in – like my family’s here. This will be the first time [living away from my family].
What do you plan to study?
Already getting my associate degree before graduating from high school has definitely helped because it puts me a little bit ahead of my class, since I already got my gen-eds out of the way. I’m studying political science under the pre-law track. Right now I’m kind of set on immigration law. As an immigrant myself, it feels like I have to give back, especially with how much support my own community has given me now.
How have you grown as a person over the last few years?
When I think back to my freshman self I think back to a girl that was scared, honestly. I was so shy.
One thing that really helped with SLI is that Dr. Alemán involves you. He’ll ask you questions directly, and he’ll put you on the spot, and while at first that was terrifying – I was like, “Why would you do that to me? I’m so shy!” – but now as I look back it definitely helped because it took me out of my shell.
All of the junior SLI were able to plan and host a social event where everyone else – all the mentors from JMU and all the younger students – could come. That was the first time I’ve ever been put in a leadership position without any interference from a teacher. Ever since then whenever there’s anything that needs to be taken charge of, I’m there, and I’ll do it. It doesn’t matter, put me there and I’ll do it, I’ll figure it out. If you would have done that to me my freshman year, I would have panicked. I would have been like, “I can’t do it, give it to someone else. I can’t do it.”
I think the biggest change about me that I’ve seen is how much into myself I’ve grown, how much into a leader – and the confidence I’ve grown in the past four years.
What are some other ways SLI has supported you?
We would have social events where Dr. Alemán would be like, “This is your time to network, to talk to people that may help you in the future, could help you.”
I got to interact with so many professors. I got to know this professor that teaches law and he was just telling me, “If you ever need help, here’s my email.” Now I have these different people that I can go to if something were to arise.
Do you think your siblings will go to college, too?
I know that my parents do have aspirations that both of my brothers do end up going to college, especially since I’ve paved the way and I can help them in retrospect. In the future, when they apply to college, and when they’re going through high school, I can be like, “Hey, do this, do that. Don’t make the same mistakes I made.”
I think it’s really important finding out who I am. Obviously I’m not going to know for sure for sure, like I have a good idea of who I am and who the person I’ve become is, but I know that as time goes my frontal lobe is going to develop. I’m going to obviously mature a lot more. Even if I think I’m mature now, I know in a few years I’m going to look back and be like, “Why did you do that?” I think that’s definitely a part of growing, and seeing who you become.
Who is someone who has encouraged you?
Someone who definitely helped me and pushed me was [my high school counselor] Ms. Weaver. Every time that I felt like I simply could not do it, I would go talk to Ms. Weaver and she would be like, “Well, you can. You’re already here. You can continue. You’ve been doing it for the past three years.” I know I went to Ms. Weaver so many times throughout like my junior and my senior year.
How are college finances looking for you?
Even with scholarships I still have to pay some of the money for UVA out of pocket. It’s a manageable amount, so obviously I don’t want to get a loan out, because I know paying that off is going to take a while. I’ve heard people be like, “Yeah I got a loan for college and I’m still paying it off and I’m in my 40s right now,” and I’m like, “No.”
I know for my first year I have enough to cover a lot of it, like I can pay half of it my first semester, and then continue working and pay the rest of it off my second semester.
I know that I’m going to make my education worth it, if I have the money to go. I appreciate my community so much for everything that they do and like everything that they offer to us.