Yanhua and Gwen: A Dream Realized

When Yanhua immigrated to the US, she hoped to attend a four-year college. Once settled in Brooklyn with her family, however, the 15-year-old found it hard enough just to communicate in the new language.

“As a first-generation student, I didn't know about applying to college or qualifying for financial aid. At the same time, I had to learn to fit into the new environment,” Yanhua said. She set her sights on attending a community college. Yanhua worked hard over the next two years, and by the time she was matched with her mentor, Gwen Fishel, she was much more comfortable in English.

“Yanhua came to the United States, stepped right in and got right to work,” said Gwen. “Her spirit to persevere is so strong.”

Gwen and Yanhua started going on out-of-program excursions together. Yanhua took Gwen to Brooklyn’s Chinatown. They attended college fairs. They even got lost together while visiting a school on Staten Island.

As they talked about colleges, Yanhua once again aspired to four-year schools. Together, the two worked on applications and financial aid forms. Yanhua especially liked St. John’s University, but thought the private institution was financially out of her reach. “Gwen encouraged me to further my goal,” said Yanhua. “Her encouragement changed my mind, and made sure I didn’t waste any of my advantages.”

Yanhua ultimately applied to and was accepted by nearly a dozen public and private colleges. After weighing financial aid packages and deciphering loan applications with Gwen’s help, Yanhua enrolled in her top choice school, St. John’s. She is now a biology major and plans to become a physician’s assistant.

Read more stories about mentors and mentees and check out Mentoring Matters: How to Be an Effective Mentor” . Watch our video “A Big Decision Day” to see Mentor seniors learn if they’ve been accepted to their top choice college for this fall—and to see students share their college commitments!