Skip to content

Striving for a better future: Vanessa’s journey to a career in engineering

Outdoor Photo Of Vanessa Smiling.

A senior at Millard South High School, Vanessa remembers when she first heard about College Possible. “I was called down to a presentation by College Possible and they described how they could help us through the process of getting into college,” Vanessa shares. “I knew I needed help, so I signed up.”

Originally from Wisconsin, Vanessa and her family have relocated several times, first to Texas and then to Nebraska. Her parents are both immigrants from Rwanda, and neither had the opportunity to go to college. Vanessa perceives that her family’s quality of life has been influenced by her parents’ educational background, often leading to financial struggles. She is convinced that if her parents had been able to attend college, their circumstances would have been notably different.

Reflecting on her past, Vanessa wants to create a better future for herself, and college is a big part of that vision. She shares, “It would mean everything to me. I’ll be the first in my family to have a degree, and I’ll be able to have opportunities that my parents never got.”

In addition to her involvement in College Possible, Vanessa has been part of the Boys and Girls Club since middle school and went on several college visits with them last year. She is also part of the Millard South marching and jazz bands, in which she plays the tuba. In addition to her academic achievements, she has been employed at a local preschool since February 2023, where she works alongside her sister, who is also involved in College Possible.

One thing Vanessa believes she has improved on over the years is knowing when and how to ask for help from her support system. When asked who she admires, she mentioned three teachers who always consider the diversity of students and the way they learn, and provide students breaks when needed. Through the example of these teachers, Vanessa has gotten better at recognizing her own needs and being more honest with herself and other people.

Vanessa also recognizes the impact of College Possible throughout her high school years. “The one-on-one meetings with my College Possible coach have been the most valuable experience,” she says. Reflecting on her conversations with coaches Aubrey and Chase over the last two years, Vanessa emphasizes the significance of learning how to identify what to look for in a school and mastering the scholarship application process.

With high school graduation approaching, Vanessa has plenty to be proud of. This year, she applied for several scholarships, including the Coyner and Donna Smith Diversity scholarship and the Ron Brown Scholars Program. She has already been awarded the Husker Power scholarship at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, worth $2,000 for her first year, the Presidential scholarship at Doane University, worth $19,000 each academic year, and the Susan Thompson Buffett scholarship, which will cover the cost of attendance at any public college in Nebraska for up to five years. This fall, fueled by her love of math, science, and the potential for more career opportunities, Vanessa plans to study engineering. Like many students waiting for schools to process the FAFSA and financial aid offer letters, she will commit to a college later this year, and is leaning toward the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Regardless of where she finds herself in the fall, Vanessa has what she needs to succeed.

This story was written by Chase Cutarelli, Vanessa’s high school coach and AmeriCorps member at College Possible Omaha.

Back To Top