LEAP Voices – A Series of Interviews with LEAP Students: Gisady
JUNE 30, 2021 BY Max D’Amato
Gisady Mendoza, College Success Program participant, Salem State University (2023) chemistry major with a concentration in biochemistry, minor in business administration
An interview with Gisady, College Success Program (CSP) participant, sharing tips and wisdom about scholarships.
Gisady Mendoza is a chemistry major with a minor in business administration at Salem State University and a College Success Program (CSP) participant. In this interview we hear how CSP has supported Gisady’s studies and journey to find the right school through guidance in seeking out scholarships, as well as hands-on assistance with applications.
When did you join CSP and why did you join?
Gisady: I joined CSP back when I was a junior in high school. I joined because I wanted to be a successful student, and I wanted access to the resources needed to become one. I didn’t know about the college preparation/application process and how it worked, but I knew it was complicated. I couldn’t do it alone and my family couldn’t help me. CSP helped me get where I wanted to be.
How did CSP support you in financing your college experience?
Gisady: CSP helped me navigate campus resources to find mental, spiritual and physical support, as well as scholarship opportunities like the Marian L. Heard, NBC Comcast Scholarship and SSU Honors Scholarship. During my sophomore year, I worked at LEAP as a math tutor at the Teen Center. I also had the opportunity to polish my public speaking in front of businessmen and businesswomen while fundraising for LEAP at Eastern Bank and for senator Joan Lovely. Public speaking is a skill I will continue to use in my career and for future scholarship opportunities.
What are some of the scholarships that you currently receive and how do these scholarships help you?
Gisady: I received the Marian L. Heard Scholarship, which awards me $2,500 every year; the Comcast Leadership and Achievers Scholarship (one-time); and the SSU Honors Scholarship, which awards me $500-$1000 for every year I make the Dean’s List. Because of these scholarships I don’t have to worry about finding a job to support myself, so I can focus strictly on my education and making the most out of my college experience.
In your opinion, why are scholarships important?
Gisady: I believe that scholarships are important because they provide students an opportunity to earn an education without getting into massive debt. They allow students to have more time to focus strictly on their studies and health. Receiving scholarships paved the way for me to build a better version of myself, focus on my education, and have a career to be able to support myself and my family. Some of my scholarships have GPA minimums, which gives me motivation to work even harder to excel in university. The Marian L. Heard Scholarship has mandatory volunteer experience, which requires me to give back to the community.
What is some advice that you would give to students when searching for college scholarships?
Gisady:Start early!!! Start looking for scholarships as soon as your sophomore and junior year of high school. Be organized. Create a list in an excel sheet with due dates, scholarship information, and documents needed. Have folders for all of your college essays, LOR’s, return address labels, mailing stamps, college essays, letters of recommendation, etc. Practice your public speaking and interviewing skills (you may need it for some scholarships). Have a game plan. Think about how you will pay for college, map out all expenses, keep an electronic folder as well as a physical one containing all your scholarships. Talk to your CSP coordinators, guidance counselors, deans, mentors, friends, and even the colleges/universities financial aid office (there are tons of scholarship opportunities you don’t know about). Make sure you’re a well-rounded student, not just focused on grades. Be active in the community and do things you love. Lastly, APPLY FOR EVERYTHING you qualify for no matter how big or small.
Is there anything else that you want to share about LEAP in general, CSP, scholarships or any other financial support around college?
Gisady: I just want to stress that if you don’t know something, reach out to your teachers, counselors or programs like those offered by LEAP!
LEAP for Education’s College Success Program provides hands-on, personalized assistance guiding students through the process of finding the right scholarships so they can in turn attend the college that is best for them. The College Success Program is available to students in Salem and Peabody from 11th grade until the time of their college graduation. In addition to scholarships it provides education, and advisory services for career exploration. CSP engages with both students and parents to ensure everyone is involved and has questions and concerns heard. Current high school and college students from Salem and Peabody are welcome to fill out our application. For more information, visit www.leap4ed.org/college-success.