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July 7, 2014 |

2013 LaGuardia ASAP Leadership Team Member

I’m Desiree Rivera, a 26-year-old student at LaGuardia Community College. As a non-traditional student I’ve faced several challenges over the past seven years. As cliché as it may sound, sometimes you have to fall down in order to learn how to get back up. During this time I learned how to piece the puzzle together in order to continue moving toward my life-long goal of attaining a college degree.


There is no doubt that education is highly valued in my family and its importance was instilled in me at a young age. I was certain of the track I was on and upon graduating from high school, I knew college was the next step. I never really had a dream college but after visiting SUNY Potsdam, I was certain I would be spending the next four years of my life there. Although everything was going according to plan, I truly had no idea of what was in store for me.


I was fully aware that college would be different from high school, but now I know that I didn’t really understand what that meant. There was no one there for me at the school. No one to make sure I went to class, no one to make sure I completed assignments, and no one to provide any unsolicited assistance and guidance. I failed out of my first semester because of poor decision-making and lack of support. I was devastated; I felt like a total failure.  With the hope of proving myself to my family and making things right for myself, I enrolled in a community college in Buffalo.  Things went much better for me in terms of classes, but I suffered a very lonely and difficult living experience.  I never once contemplated that I may not have been ready for college, but after that semester I realized that it was time for me to take a break.


I was finally back home in New York City and through exploring the world of employment, I landed a job.  I gained some invaluable work experience and excelled in any position I was placed in.  However, just working was not cutting it for me. I always wanted more, and I always held on to the desire to return to school.  I just didn’t know when the right time would be, how to go about getting back into school, what college would I attend, and, a main issue for many people, how I would pay for school.  I reached my breaking point after being laid off and felt like I had nowhere else to go.  I saw this as an opportunity to challenge myself and do whatever it took to re-enroll in college.


In the summer of 2011, just a few months after committing to this challenge, I heard about ASAP and at first I thought it was too good to be true.  In exploring my options, I again found a college that I felt was the right fit for me, someplace where I felt that I belonged, LaGuardia Community College.  During the application process I worked with Tyleah Castillo to ensure that I understood what the program offered. Everything already felt completely different from my first two attempts at school because there was actually someone there for me. There was an actual person to answer my questions and to address any of my concerns.  She didn’t even know me and I felt as if she cared.  Classes had not even begun and I just knew this was my time; I was more ready and determined than I had ever been in my life.


When I first met Tyleah I had no idea that she would eventually become my assigned advisor.  I don’t think words will ever be able to truly express how much she means to me.  You see, my family has always been my backbone and supported me, but today I am so grateful to finally have that support at LaGuardia through ASAP. As my advisor, Tyleah’s scope goes far beyond academics.  She’s seen me at my very best and at my very worst.  I am completely able to let my guard down around her and discuss both personal and academic struggles. She has never turned me away, has always had an open ear, has always had advice to give and life experiences to share.  I have never doubted that she would be there for me.  Truthfully, she is the big sister that I never had and her support has played a major role in my success as an ASAP student today.


Looking back at the past two years of my life, I can say with confidence that ASAP was a godsend.  Being accepted into the program was the beginning of my road to redemption.  ASAP provided me with all the necessary tools to be the best student that I can possibly be and I truly don’t think I would have been able to reignite my potential without the program.   I not only feel successful—I am successful.  I have earned a 3.9 GPA, been accepted to Phi Theta Kappa, an international honors society, and expect to graduate in June 2013.  I’m currently in the process of transferring to a four-year college and pushing forward, moving closer to one of my major goals, which fills me with overwhelming pride and joy.  Without ASAP, and certainly without Tyleah, these achievements would have been much harder to attain and I can’t even begin to think of how else I could have done it.  I will forever be grateful to the ASAP family for the opportunities and experiences they have provided for me.