Success Story

From California Days to East Coast Dreams: Giselle & Jen

Giselle, a student from the Bay Area, had long set her sights on going to a liberal arts college on the East Coast, even though that would mean venturing far from her family in California.

Her mentor, Jen, understood Giselle in ways she didn’t expect. Until she met Jen, Giselle didn’t know anyone who was as much of a bookworm as she was; the pair started reading books together for fun and spent three weeks nose-deep in the novel We Were Liars by Emily Lockhart.

Like Giselle, Jen had been a first-generation college student and Giselle though of Jen as “another me.”

“It made a big difference to have someone believe in me so much,” said Giselle. “To have someone who understands what I’m going through, and how to get to college.”

During Giselle’s junior year, Jen helped Giselle develop a list of schools and a plan for admission. “When we were jotting down schools, I told Jen I wanted to go the East Coast,” said Giselle. “She was a bit taken aback, but then she was like ‘OK, let’s do it.’ And she started sending me info about schools. The support she gave me just registered on a different emotional level.”

Giselle was named a finalist for a prestigious scholarship, and Jen read her essays and helped her prep for interviews. Giselle’s hard work paid off: She received an offer of admission and a full scholarship from Lehigh University. Later that summer, she was on a plane across the country to begin her college dream.

First semester was a challenging time for Giselle. On her own and in a new environment, she had difficulties with some of her classes. In November, Jen traveled to the East Coast and stopped by Lehigh to catch up with her mentee. “We talked a lot about how I’m doing and that if I’m struggling, I should take a different approach,” said Giselle.

“Now my second semester is much easier – I’m taking classes that I really enjoy.” Giselle is relishing her literature classes while also pursuing a newfound interest in a marketing career.

“Giselle has been so clear about her goals and I've just been fortunate to bear witness to her knocking each goal down,” said Jen. “I feel I won the lottery in terms of mentees. When we were matched it was just amazing alchemy, and I still feel the same way today.”

The pair can’t wait to see each other again on Jen’s next trip east.