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Stories from graduates: Change for future generations


By Yulissa Flores-Lopez
Gresham High School ’15
Portland State University ’19

Yulissa and sister
Yulissa (left) celebrates her sister’s graduation from Willamette University.

It all really started with my mom. My mom has always looked for different resources to support her family and four children. My dad was the only person who worked when I was a kid and my mom had to seek out more ways to help cover the family’s costs. My parents immigrated from Mexico to find better opportunities for themselves and their future children — and I am proud to have made that a reality.

My name is Yulissa Flores-Lopez and I am a proud alumna of College Possible and Portland State University. I joined College Possible during my junior year at Gresham High School and was in the program until I earned my bachelor’s degree. I then did a term of AmeriCorps service as a College Possible coach before being hired for my current role as a full-time staff member. College Possible has been a huge part of my life.

Now that I’ve been a College Possible coach and staff member, I’ve seen how important it was for my mom to plant the idea of college so confidently in me early on. Our students need to feel another person’s confidence in their ability to succeed in college so that they can envision it for themselves.

As a kid, I’d walk with my mom and three siblings to the bank every week. She would deposit $5 in each of our accounts, so that was $20 each week, which was a big ask for our family. She would say,

“This is for your savings account. This is for your future. This money is what we’re going to use for your college fund. I know it’s not a lot, but it will grow because we’re making consistent deposits. It’s something I want you all to have. We’re in the world of opportunity and college is the next step for all of you.”

I didn’t understand then the power of my mom’s belief in what was possible. I do now.

I’m thankful to have had College Possible help me navigate college. I had a lot to manage between work, school and family and it overwhelmed me. I wanted to drop out of college many, many times. In these challenging moments of self-doubt, I reached out to my College Possible coach. For six years I had a built-in support system that was only a phone call or text away — a coach who was consistently there to provide guidance, compassion and reassurance.

Having a coach listen to the things I was experiencing really made a difference. They could relate, suggest different resources, and help me rethink how I was viewing the situation. I know this made all the difference in my college journey and helped me continue on in college and eventually graduate.

Something that I am incredibly proud of is that I may have been the first to graduate, but I was not the last. All three of my younger siblings are also part of College Possible. So far, my sister and I have earned our bachelor’s degrees (both debt-free!) and our two little brothers are working on theirs.

While it all started with my mom’s vision of what was possible for us and her support for us in seeking out opportunities, I’ve noticed a bigger shift in my extended family. They definitely noticed when all four of us went to college. I get questions about college from my aunts, uncles, cousins and even from my partner’s family. It has completely changed my family’s mindset and allowed them to think about bigger opportunities and see that college could be for them.

I’m grateful that College Possible was there for me and for my family, and I’m privileged to be able to continue to work with young people to help them achieve their college dreams.

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