“My grandma has been to college — she didn’t complete it. My mom has been to college — she didn’t complete it,” says Brooklyann. “It’s not so much about them going, as them going and actually completing it.”
Even though Brooklyann always knew she wanted to be a pediatrician, she was worried about her own college dreams.
“My relationship with my mom started to turn and I got put in foster care when I was 16. I was in four different homes before I got placed with my cousin at 17. I was more focused on just graduating. I didn’t have anybody I could go to for help with college. I don’t speak to my mom.”
“When an alumni from my high school came to talk to us about college and financial aid, I was like, I am never going to be able to get that. I really didn’t think I’d be able to get any assistance because I thought your parents were the ones who helped you into college; they help you pay for things.”
She was nervous about asking for help. “I am a closed off person. I don’t wear my feelings on my sleeve.”
Getting the courage to try
But the more Brooklyann thought about the prospect of being in Columbus her whole life, the more she knew she had to try.
“I was like, I need to get the ball rolling on what’s next for me. It is nobody’s choice but my own to decide what I’m going to do with my life after high school.”
She looked at the FAFSA online to see if she could apply for financial aid, but she didn’t know how to answer the questions about her parents since she’s in foster care.
The next day, during study hall, she grabbed two friends and went to talk to Mrs. Rolle, her school’s college advisor from I Know I Can.
What she learned about the FAFSA
Mrs. Rolle helped break down how financial aid works for Brooklyann and showed her the requirements for different colleges.
The biggest thing Mrs. Rolle helped with? “I didn’t know, but there was a box to check if you’re in foster care,” Brooklyann said. She didn’t have to enter any of her parents’ personal or income information to complete the FAFSA. She and Mrs. Rolle filled it out together.
She found out she was eligible for nearly $25,000. Some of that came from the Pell Grant — money she wouldn’t have to pay back — and work-study programs, loans and other financial aid.
“I was happy. I really wanted to cry,” she remembers. “Even though I’ve been through some crazy situations, in the end it has all worked out. A year ago, you couldn’t have told me I’d be going off to college. You never know until you try.”
Brooklyann’s advice: Be heard
Brooklyann has advice for other foster youth who dream of going to college, too. “The best thing I did was come and talk to Mrs. Rolle and tell her about my situation.”
“Be heard. Speak out. Don’t be afraid to tell somebody your business or your story. I know how it feels when you just want to keep information to yourself because you have a lot going on at home.” Opening up was what allowed Mrs. Rolle to know exactly how to help.
“I’ve been through some crazy situations. A year ago, you couldn’t have told me I’d be going off to college.”
“I was prejudging and thinking that she couldn’t help. I was really scared of the process, and I think a lot of times we run away from things because we’re scared. But in the end it wasn’t bad at all. Mrs. Rolle has been there for me, helping me keep track of everything.”
“One day, I hope I can come back and talk to my whole school about how financial aid and college have helped me.”
Brooklyann will be studying nursing at Ohio State University. She hopes to one day go to medical school.