Before she started as a freshman this year at Boston University, Christina Torres thought she owed $10,000 to the school. Panicked, she reached out to Associate Director of College Admissions Ana Almeida, who leads Onward’s Honorific Program.
“I said, ‘Ana, they’re telling me I’m in debt; we need to write an appeal letter right now’ and she said, ‘Christina, you’re fine. There’s no way you’re in debt. I want you to bring me the bill before we write a letter.’”
Onward’s Honorific Program guides high-achieving high school juniors and seniors in exploring opportunities at selective schools. Honorific students receive individualized support and guidance from Almeida during the admissions process and through their freshman year if they enroll at a private institution.
It’s times like these that make Honorific students glad to have Almeida in their corner.
“It was nice to know she was always there. That day she had a FAFSA night for her new Honorific kids but she took time; she said come in, let’s check this out. She just goes over and beyond, because I know she was probably tired after dealing with kids all day and crunching numbers with parents, but she still made time to look that over with me. It gave me peace of mind because it turns out I wasn’t in debt.”
The lifelong Providence resident and Central High School graduate said the Honorific Program is the best Onward program she participated in. “It taught me all the nitty and gritty when it comes to college. I went into senior year feeling very prepared for the whole college process. It was a smooth transition.”
Torres said the fact that Almeida’s experience mirrors their own – she graduated from Hope High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts from Brown University – is important.
“Ana comes from the same type of background as us. She was in the same footsteps. It’s different when a person from a whole different social class tells you, ‘Oh, you could do this,’ but it doesn’t feel genuine in the sense that they don’t know the struggles that I’ve been through. I felt like Ana understood us in many ways. We face everyday issues just being the people that we are, and having to deal with this whole college process is intimidating. It’s nice to know she can relate to us and that if I come to her with something, she’s going to know what I need without me having to explain. She just gets it.”
Torres said the Honorific program gave her the confidence to become a self-advocate. “Ana reassured me of what these colleges want from me and what I could ask from them. She put value in our names; value that I didn’t know it held. She said, ‘Trust me, they want you. You guys are smart.’ I’ve learned to advocate for myself more than I knew how to and, guess what? I got extra financial aid for two other semesters because of that.”