"YPIE is out there fighting for us -- the first-generation students, the minorities, working-class families. YPIE was an irreplaceable experience for me."
YPIE Scholar, 2015-2019
Graduate, Saunders Trades & Technical High School, 2019
College Freshman, Lehman College, Fall 2019
Intended Major: Environmental Studies; Minor: Studio Art
How did you become involved with YPIE?
Alicia is one of very few students to have been involved with YPIE since 7th grade. At that time, YPIE offered a program for middle school students to start their thinking about college and the careers they may pursue in the future.
“I went into high school ahead of other kids, already thinking about what I might want to do in the future. In middle school, it seemed so far off, but now looking back, I see it was good. It made us think deeply about things we would never think about.”
How did your experiences with YPIE continue in high school?
Alicia chose to attend Saunders Trades & Technical High School, one of the first public trade schools in New York State. She liked that it was a trade school and studied Bio-Chem because of her interest in becoming a veterinarian in the future.
Alicia was one of the first students to attend the YPIE College Zone, which opened when she was in ninth grade. She went after school two days a week and received extra help with her classes and also became part of the larger YPIE community.
“At first, I was terrified. But quickly, this became my YPIE family.” Alicia remembers making “ice cream in a bag” as one of her favorite memories. Being involved with YPIE helped her to develop meaningful friendships with students across all the Yonkers schools.
“I became closer with friends through YPIE. I made deeper connections and exchanged information with others taking similar classes. We may have been different, but we all had the same goal. We all wanted to go to college. YPIE brought us all together. ”
During the summer before her Sophomore year, Alicia studied AP Global History and Chemistry at the College Zone. Even when there were changes with the Chemistry teachers at her school, Alicia proudly passed the Chemistry Regents. “Thanks to YPIE, I already knew the information I needed because of what I studied that summer. I was even helping the other kids.”
How did YPIE help with the college process?
Alicia will be the first in her family to attend college. Throughout high school, YPIE helped with many steps along the way, including academic support, SAT prep, essay writing, college visits, financial aid applications, and more.
“Since we are first-gen, we didn’t know anything about college. It was like the college process was a foreign language (like gibberish) and they taught us the language. I learned so much from YPIE that I was able to help my friends with the process. YPIE gave me the confidence that I am going to make it to college.”
Alicia also reflects on the emotional support that was so important throughout this process.
“It’s a huge pressure to be the first in my family to go to college, go through all this process. My parents dropped out of high school, my sisters didn’t go to college. YPIE helped me through it emotionally – helped me to realize that we would take this a step at a time. If I had questions, they were there to help me. And, if I needed my hand held, they were there for me.”
What shaped your interests for the future?
Alicia worked throughout high school for her family. Her parents opened a food truck when she was three. Combining the cuisines from their countries of origin, Mexico and Ireland, her parents followed the success of their food truck with opening two restaurants in the area.
“My parents are such hard workers. They built themselves up while they built up their business with less than a high school education.”
Working in her family restaurant also inspired Alicia’s intention to study Environmental Science in college. “We need to be tapping foods that are good for the environment and ensuring that we are finding greener ways to ensure environmental sustainability.”
What will you always remember about YPIE?
"YPIE is out there fighting for us -- the first-generation students, the minorities, working-class families. YPIE was an irreplaceable experience for me. YPIE made sure I had a personal connection to college. I’ll always remember the friendships I’ve made and the help I’ve received. If I didn’t have their help, I don’t think I would be going to college.”