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July 7, 2014 |

2013 BMCC ASAP Leadership Team Member

My name is Celeste Mota. I am a 24-year-old single parent who is majoring in early bilingual education. At first, I believed ASAP could only help me out with MetroCards, but I was wrong! ASAP was more. It helped me learn the importance of education because I had someone there to guide me through each step of my college experience.


As a child, school was never very important to me. My mother was a single parent with four children and she worked full-time in order to support us. She raised my siblings and me without the help of our father. My mother was too busy working. She never had the time to open my book bag, or check to see if any of my homework or assignments were done, or enforce the importance of education.


When I entered high school I felt completely lost and had no one to point me in the right direction, or to tell me what was expected of me in order to graduate. I lacked the focus and the drive to get good grades. There were two things I fell in love with: money and a boy. I was only allowed to work part-time but my priority was to earn my own money. I was distracted and lacked interest in school. I do not believe I even opened a textbook while in high school, and the books were free! There were probably 1,000 or more students in the high school I attended. I never had a chance to meet with a guidance counselor, who may have helped to keep me in school. At that moment, money gave me what I needed, so I dropped out of school. The years flew by, and my only concern was to continue working and create a family with the boy I fell in love with.


After I had my daughter the only jobs that I qualified for were dead-end jobs, such as retail and minimum wage jobs. After working for a about year I realized the need for an education. I went back to school and obtained my GED within a month. I applied to the Borough of Manhattan Community College and was introduced to ASAP. Before starting the fall semester I had to travel to resolve some personal issues. I missed an entire semester because my child was not allowed to leave without the consent of her father. Her father refused to give me full custody of our daughter. It took me eight months, but I was able to get a divorce and full custody of my daughter.


I was back at where I started, but with a bill of almost $3,000 from BMCC. I had failed to announce to BMCC the reasons why I was unable to attend classes. I was unemployed and had no way of paying for childcare. I felt like I had no one to rely on. At one of my advisement sessions at ASAP, Denessa asked me a few questions, and without even realizing it, I had told her all about my personal and academic issues. It turns out that for every issue I had, ASAP had a solution. Danessa explained what I had to do to remove my outstanding balance with the Registrar’s Office. She then told me about the childcare center that was located at BMCC, and said that ASAP would pay for my childcare expenses. To my good fortune, the childcare center was open seven days a week and from 7 A.M. to 9 P.M. on most days. This made registering for classes much easier for me because before I had not had anyone to watch my baby. Danessa also introduced me to Michael Stahl, the career employment specialist, who helped me decide on my major. He also helped me find a job at Bright Horizons that is flexible with my school hours and is allowing me to gain experience as an early bilingual teacher.


I also have my great advisor, Lisa Villanueva, whom I am able to ask about anything regarding school or my personal life. Lisa knows how to keep me motivated when I am met with challenges. She is always there to tell me, “Celeste, all this hard work will pay off and Angeline is at the age where she will be able to experience your achievements!” Lisa knows my daughter and me very well.


Yes, ASAP offers free books, free tutoring, and free MetroCards. ASAP also offers honest, reliable, and caring support that will allow you to gain the confidence to become who you really want to be. Thanks to ASAP, I have learned that there will always be obstacles that life will throw at me, but because of ASAP I have learned that there is a solution for any problem. There will always be someone to guide you.