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Journey of Empowerment

Journey of Empowerment

Whether she’s helping students navigate their educational journeys and career paths, or advocating for those in underrepresented communities, Alejandra Anastas ’20 is passionate about helping others. Through her work as a career and internship coach in Alverno’s Career Studio, Anastas is able to channel that passion into her daily interactions with students. A Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient, Anastas knows the challenges that first-generation students face, making her uniquely suited to walk beside them as they explore opportunities for their future.

She hopes to inspire others to pursue their dreams, despite any obstacles. For Anastas, education is a transformative tool, and she’s committed to helping others access the opportunities and resources they need to succeed.

A lot of young people are questioning whether they should even go to college. What made you decide to pursue your degree?

“As a non-traditional student, I decided to go back to school at the age of 26. While I loved my job as a nanny and deeply valued that experience, I knew I had the potential to achieve more. Pursuing a degree was always a dream of mine, and when the opportunity to attend college finally arose, I knew I couldn't let it slip away.

“Growing up, my future in the United States often felt uncertain. However, I realized that no matter what happened, my education was something no one could ever take from me. It was a solid foundation that would empower me to create a better future for myself. This understanding drove my decision to pursue a degree, and it continues to motivate the work that I do today.”

How did you decide upon Alverno?

“Alverno had always been on my radar. My best friend from middle school attended Alverno, and I often joined her for campus events during her undergraduate years. While I enjoyed my time on campus, I didn't feel that college was right for me at that time. However, my friend always encouraged me to consider Alverno.

“The turning point came when I attended one of David Brooker's Model UN simulations on Disney Princesses. That experience captivated me and made me see the potential of an Alverno education. It's funny because I ultimately chose Alverno for the very reasons my friend had highlighted: the non-traditional approach to learning, the emphasis on the 8 abilities, the smaller class sizes, and the flexibility to shape my education to meet my needs. These factors convinced me that Alverno was the perfect place for me to pursue my degree.”

Talk about your experience as a first-gen student. What hurdles did you face, and how did you overcome them?

“As a first-generation student, my journey has been marked by significant challenges and remarkable growth. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant added layers of complexity to my experience. Without a family history of higher education, I lacked access to guidance on navigating the educational system, from applying to colleges to understanding financial aid. To overcome this, I sought out mentors and resources, connecting with counselors and advisors who offered the support I needed.

“Financial barriers were another major hurdle, especially since I was ineligible for federal financial aid. I worked various jobs, from nannying to legal assisting, to save money for school. I was privileged to have received DACA before coming to Alverno, opening up more opportunities for work and financial assistance. I also applied for scholarships specifically for undocumented students.

“The emotional and psychological strain of being undocumented was significant, making it difficult to focus solely on academics. I found strength in community support and my family, engaging in community organizing and advocacy to channel my anxieties into positive action. Balancing academic responsibilities with work and family obligations required strong time management skills and support from my family, who valued my educational pursuits.

“My experience shaped my passion for social justice and advocacy. In my current role, I leverage my background to support students, particularly those who are undocumented or come from similar backgrounds. My journey as a first-gen student taught me resilience, determination, and the importance of community, fueling my desire to create a more equitable environment for future generations.”

Why do you think it’s important for women to get an education?

“Education is a fundamental tool for empowerment, and for women, it holds particular significance in shaping not only their futures but also the broader fabric of society.

“In my personal journey, education has been a transformative force. Growing up as an undocumented immigrant and a first-generation student, I faced numerous challenges. However, pursuing higher education opened doors I never thought possible, allowing me to advocate for myself and my community. I now support other students, particularly women and undocumented individuals, helping them navigate their educational paths and achieve their full potential.

“In essence, educating women creates a ripple effect that benefits not only the individual but also families, communities, and entire nations. By investing in women's education, we are investing in a more equitable, prosperous, and just world for everyone.”

Who were you when you first arrived at Alverno, and who are you now?

“When I first arrived at Alverno College, I was a determined yet uncertain individual, navigating the complexities of my identities. My journey to higher education was extremely challenging, from financial barriers to the psychological strain of living with the constant fear of deportation. At that time, I was full of hope but also anxiety, unsure of how I would manage to succeed in an environment where I felt like an imposter.

“I carried with me the weight of my family's sacrifices and the desire to make the most of the opportunities that DACA had finally afforded me. Despite my determination, I lacked the confidence and resources that many of my peers took for granted, but I was fueled by a deep-seated passion for learning and a desire to give back to my community.

“Now, as a graduate and career professional, I am a transformed individual. My time at Alverno has not only provided me with a solid academic foundation but also with a supportive community that has nurtured my growth and resilience. I have evolved into a confident advocate and educator, committed to shaping a more equitable world for others who face similar challenges.

“My experiences at Alverno have equipped me with the skills and knowledge to support and guide students, particularly those who have similar experiences to mine. I have found my voice and my place within the community, using my background to inspire and empower others. My journey has taught me the importance of resilience, community, and the transformative power of education.

“Ultimately, Alverno has helped me transform from a student filled with uncertainty into a leader and advocate, dedicated to fostering opportunities and support for the next generation of students.”

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