This is the second in a series about four college-bound high school seniors who are participating in College Possible, a program that provides students from low-income families with coaching and support to get into college and earn a degree. NNS will check in with these students during their transition into college and throughout their freshman year.
Back in early March, high school seniors Darneisha Virginia, Nury Plascencia, Pa Nou Xiong and Peter Khanthavong worried about getting into their first-choice colleges. They worried too about receiving enough financial aid to go to college. They were excited about the possibilities and nervous that their dreams might never be realized.
Now, with graduation just a few weeks away, financial aid packages offered and college choices made, worry is beginning to take a back seat to excitement.
“I’m most excited about meeting new people, being in a bigger environment, gaining my independence and becoming my own person,” said Pa Nou Xiong, who will receive her high school diploma from Milwaukee School of Languages on June 11.
St. Joan Antida senior Nury Plascencia echoed Xiong’s longing for independence. “I’m excited about living on my own without my parents guiding me through everything,” she said.
The four recently joined the rest of their College Possible class, 173 seniors from 10 Milwaukee high schools, at a year-end graduation celebration on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Juniors who spent the year preparing for standardized college admission tests and sophomores just entering the program also participated.
Xiong, Virginia, Plascencia and Khanthavong all have been admitted to the college they most want to attend and all have been awarded the financial aid necessary to complete four-year degree programs.
Xiong has decided to attend Marquette University. In addition to the physician assistant program the university offers, Xiong chose Marquette because “I really love the environment. I love that it is downtown but maintains its own sense of community despite being in such a large city,” she said.
She is waiting to hear the results of some scholarship applications but she will be able to pay her tuition with scholarships from Marquette and the federally funded Educational Opportunity Program. She will take out loans to cover part of the cost of room and board.
Plascencia and Virginia will both go from St. Joan Antida to Mount Mary College. Plascencia knew she wanted to follow her older sister to Mount Mary, where she received a Caroline Scholarship for full tuition, room and board for four years.
Virginia was undecided in March but now says that Mount Mary is her first choice. She has received a Grace Scholarship for new undergraduates from Milwaukee who demonstrate financial need. It will cover 85 percent of tuition. Virginia, who is also waiting for results of a number of scholarship applications, said she plans to take out loans for the balance of her tuition and for room and board if necessary.
She said she is most excited about graduating from high school and having the opportunity to go to college. She is also thrilled to be going to a small college, with small classes, where she expects to receive individual attention. Proximity to home is another positive aspect of Mount Mary for Virginia. “I’m excited to get in and jump into a career that I really am passionate about,” she said.
Khanthavong, who will receive his diploma from Alexander Hamilton High School on June 8, will attend UW-Milwaukee. Both Carroll University and UWM offered him good financial aid packages, which will cover all but about $5,000 of his expenses per year. If the other scholarships he applied for do not come through, Khathavong will take out loans, he said.
Along with the excitement, each student expressed some anxiety about academic challenges and the new social scene.
Recognizing this, College Possible will continue to offer support through the students’ freshman year. Coaches will check in regularly with students, and are available to help when asked. During the summer, a one-day program will help prepare students for the transition. It focuses on finding campus resources and adapting to college life and work, according to Xiong.
“Although I’m excited about making new friends, I’m really nervous about it,” she added. Xiong considers herself a shy person and worries that her reserve will be misinterpreted by fellow students.
Virginia expressed another fear that many college freshmen feel. “I’m scared that the classes are going to be extremely hard and I’m going to fail. You never really know what it’s going to be like until you’re in the door.”