When Untapped Potential Meets Access to College

College students are working toward their dreams, thanks to the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund and support from Wells Fargo.
Jul 12, 2018 3:00 PM ET
Jacklyn Garote is a 2015 recipient of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund/Wells Fargo Scholarship.

When untapped potential meets access to college

In some communities around the world, people shy away from discussing mental health and behavioral issues. But one college student has decided to tackle these topics head-on — and make a career out of it.

Jacklyn Garote, who is from Saipan, Commonwealth of the Mariana Islands, hopes to be a leader in the field of psychology. She’s currently majoring in psychology, planning to also major in sociology, and aspires to be a licensed therapist and psychology researcher.

“In learning the disparities and lack of research on mental and behavioral issues in the Micronesian region, I’ve set the goal of furthering my education and coming back to my community to address these issues,” Garote said. “Knowing these practices are still stigmatized in the community, I aim to develop and apply appropriate culturally sensitive programs and practices.”

As a rising senior at the University of Guam, Garote is well on her way. She credits the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund/Wells Fargo Scholarship for helping her pursue her higher education goals. Becoming a scholarship recipient, Garote said, helped her at a time when she felt she had nothing.

Since 2006, APIASF and Wells Fargo have worked together to support access, persistence, and success for Asian American and Pacific Islander students and their families through scholarships, financial education, mentoring, college tours, and national events. Wells Fargo has donated more than $7 million and funded more than 1,700 scholarships.

“Through our more than decade-long relationship, Wells Fargo has been a committed supporter of APIASF, our scholars, families, and the greater APIA community,” said Noël Harmon, president and executive director of APIASF. “We are honored to have Wells Fargo’s continued support to increase opportunities for underserved students nationwide.”

APIASF provides scholarships to underserved Asian & Pacific Islander American students, especially those who live at or below the poverty level, are first-generation college students, and have a strong emphasis on community service and leadership. Over the past year, 63 percent of APIASF/Wells Fargo scholars lived at or below the poverty line, and 68 percent were the first generation in their families to attend college, according to the organization.

“In my years on the board, I have seen firsthand the difference APIASF makes,” said Arati Randolph, Wells Fargo Corporate Communications leader and a national board member for APIASF. “Many people mistakenly assume that all APIA students are financially well-off and high-achieving academically. The truth is that many APIA groups experience some of the lowest high school graduation and college degree attainment rates in America. So that is why APIASF is so important; this nonprofit is the largest provider of college scholarships for APIA students in the country and helps these student to access, complete, and succeed after post-secondary education. APIASF has not only provided the critical access to higher education that APIA students need, but it also helps nurture these students into future leaders.”

‘I still consider it as one of my blessings’

Garote received the APIASF/Wells Fargo Foundation scholarship in 2015. At the time, her home island had been hit with a typhoon, ravaging homes and leaving families without food or water, she said. She said it was difficult to leave her home to attend college. “When I received the scholarship, I was filled with a mix of emotions,” Garote said. “To be awarded a scholarship — with a disadvantaged background, among a competitive group of deserving students, and being from a community that lacked opportunities — I still consider it as one of my blessings. It was one of the many helping hands in the time we had nothing.”

The scholarship helped Garote pay for tuition and living costs, helping to ease the transition of starting college, she said. She also saved some of the money to buy a used car, which helped her to get a job. “Overall, the scholarship covered my immediate educational needs, as well as costs that later helped me help myself,” Garote said. “This scholarship — and all those who contribute to it — give me hope. It gave me the motivation to further my education in the midst of hardship and struggle. It continues to be a reminder to do my best in all my courses and ultimately never give up.”

‘It seemed the odds were stacked against me’

Linda Nguyen can relate to overcoming the odds. Her parents were immigrants from Vietnam who lived in New Orleans when she was born. For eight years she was raised in a public housing community before moving to another community in Long Beach, California. “Statistically, it seemed the odds were stacked against me, with my parents’ education level, immigration status, and inability to speak English,” Nguyen said.

A high school counselor encouraged Nguyen to apply for scholarships, including one through APIASF. As a result of the financial assistance, Nguyen was able to choose which college she wanted to attend, and she graduated from the University of Notre Dame debt free. She later earned master’s degrees in education and public administration.

“The scholarship has definitely contributed to my success, and companies like Wells Fargo being able to support it gives individuals like me access to other opportunities,” Nguyen said.

After teaching low-income students in south Los Angeles, she worked for a local housing authority before coming to Wells Fargo. In her current role as a Community Relations consultant in Irvine, California, Nguyen is able to give back in the community where she grew up.

“In the generation before me, no one went to college,” Nguyen said. “I never thought I would be in a job and have an experience like mine, working in low-income communities.”

She also gives back to the group that helped her, serving as a panelist when APIASF visited the University of California, Irvine, and reviewing scholarship applications for APIASF each year. “This scholarship has played a big role in the things I’ve been able to experience,” Nguyen said. “I would tell prospective students to apply themselves, give things a chance, be open-minded, and give 100 percent in everything they do. Sometimes circumstances are hard, but being able to apply ourselves and believe in ourselves is why companies like Wells Fargo give us those opportunities.”

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