The Journey to Career and College Success Starts in the DSF Future Centers

Bruce Randolph School senior Melvin Casillas with DSF College Advisor Ms. Garcia

For Bruce Randolph School senior Melvin Casillas, preparing for success after high school is a matter of hitting all the right notes. Inspired by his passion for music education and motivated by his dream to give back to the community, Melvin says he spends almost every free period in the DSF Future Center preparing for his next step after high school: College.

As a result of his involvement with a local music education nonprofit, Melvin aspires to launch his own nonprofit one day. A college degree in business management, he says, will equip him with the knowledge and connections needed to bring his dream to life. As a first generation college student, Melvin can turn to his DSF College Advisor in the Future Center, Ms. Garcia, for support on the journey to college.

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a critical step for college-aspiring students. This application, which helps students secure federal financial aid in order to make college affordable, is easier said than done. The FAFSA often challenges families with confusing language and technical hurdles. More than that, many families think that they might not even qualify for federal aid for their college student—a misconception which DSF is working to demystify through FAFSA workshops.

At the DSF FAFSA Workshop at Bruce Randolph School, Melvin successfully completed this important step towards college enrollment with help from DSF staff and volunteers.

“The FAFSA workshops are important for first generation college students like me,” Melvin says. “My family had little knowledge about the FAFSA until we attended the DSF FAFSA Workshop. Beyond the workshop, having Ms. Garcia in the DSF Future Center means I am not missing out on further opportunities or resources that help make the college process less stressful.”

In the Future Center, Ms. Garcia works with seniors to explore college fit. This includes researching a college’s academic and social support networks as well as financial requirements.

Melvin plans to apply to the University of Colorado Boulder, the University of California, Los Angeles, New York University, and Princeton. In college applications, personal statements and essays give students like Melvin a chance to set themselves apart from other applicants.

“Right now Ms. Garcia and I are polishing my personal statement and essays for my applications,” Melvin says. “I am looking at competitive universities, and she is helping me present myself in the best light on my applications.”

Regardless of whether Melvin chooses to attend an in-state or out-of-state college, scholarships will help make college more affordable. In the DSF Future Center, Ms. Garcia shares scholarship opportunities with seniors like Melvin. Because some scholarships entail extensive essays and interviews as a part of the selection proces, Ms. Garcia offers support and feedback through essay proofreading and mock interviews.

“All of these steps bring me closer to my goal of serving under-resourced communities,” says Melvin. “Ms. Garcia is helping me get to college, and college will help ensure my success in my career goals.”