“I am a survivor.”
With those words as an introduction, Ruby Sands jumps into her personal narrative, the story of how she fought through years marked by depression, self-harm, and self-doubt. Ruby doesn’t hesitate when asked to share her tale. She says with well-deserved pride: “My story is one of survival and success.”
Ruby can’t pinpoint when her mental outlook began to slide. Some time during her teenage years, for sure. But she can recount in detail the variety of services she received to help counter the increasingly ominous outlook she had on life: therapeutic mentoring, counseling, and suicide prevention, among others. She remembers clearly the several times she required hospitalization. And she especially recalls when the network of support she had built up over the years was at risk of being pulled out from under her.
The promise of a better education is what first lured Loan Nguyen’s mother to American shores. That same education – and a well-served spot as a select member of the Blueprint Fellows Program – has now put Loan in a position to do the same for the kids that have followed behind her.
Loan was only two months old when her mother fled Vietnam for the United States. By the time she was five, she was enrolled in the Boston public schools, a place her mother thought she could receive – the education and resources that were not readily available at home.
Imagine the walls of the Oval Office, lined with portraits of American icons, historic maps of the original colonies and the newly explored western territories – and kids books. Plenty of kids books. Charlotte’s Web. If You Give a Mouse a Strawberry. Diary of A Whimpy Kid.
This will be the décor when 4th grader Alexandra Lopez is sitting behind the presidential desk decades from now. And the importance and enjoyment of reading is likely to be central to her campaign platform, too.
Alexandra has wanted to be President of the United States almost as long as she has been attached to books and reading. Her mother has a picture of her at four months old, barely having learned to sit up, but already with a book propped up in front of her. By the time she was three, picture books were passé; she wanted to read.
Cynda heard about Family Independence Initiative (FII) from a friend. Her first reaction? “It sounded too good to be true!” A single mother of four young children, Cynda just could not believe what FII promised: a strong and supportive network and resources to help her realize her goals in return for nothing more than her participation to support her peers in reaching their own goals.
Cynda’s skepticism proved unfounded. She went to one meeting of her FII group. Then several more. In the process, she discovered a group of peers who had many of the same life experiences she’d had as well as similar goals for improving their economic circumstances. She felt connected. She felt respected. She felt that her dreams of financial security and continuing education were in reach.
Some might call it “rising to a challenge.” Most would recognize it as more than “just dumb luck.” However you describe the success of TUGG – Technology Underwriting the Greater Good – one of its founders, Jeff Fagnan, self-effacingly calls its start truly accidental.
It was almost ten years ago that Jeff, principal of venture firm Accomplice, and a venture colleague, bit the bait on a dare from an older VC contemporary: try to organize a group of the younger VC set to raise money for Boston-based nonprofit Year Up. Make it a wine tasting, too. Jeff admits: “We knew nothing about wine. And we knew nothing about Year Up.” But the night of the event, they knew they were on to something when the networking buzz in the room went still, completely quieted by the captivating remarks of a recent Year Up graduate. The young tech crowd was sold on a different form of enterprise – social enterprise. $15,000 was raised. And TUGG was born.
The irony of Stefanny Sun’s current role – as a school-based adviser with the College Advising Corps (CAC) in Boston – is not lost on Stefanny herself. After all, not many years ago, she was a senior at the same school and college was not really part of her plan. Or at least, part of the plan anyone else seemed to have in mind for her.
Stefanny had been a solid student at her public high school in Boston and a contributor to the school community, too. She thought that given her track record, a four year college was within reach. Maybe UMass. Or a small, local four year college if she could get a good financial aid package. Stefanny knew that wherever she went, she would have to stick close to home. Money was a factor. She had nieces and nephews she would have to help look after. And she was the primary caregiver for her mother, a single mother of four who was beset by a range of health issues.
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