Yvonne Garner

Chestnut Hill College
Chestnut Hill University

I completed my Associates from the Community College of Philadelphia and this fall I’m attending Chestnut Hill College to get my bachelors degree in Human Services. Then I want to continue on to get my masters. Ultimately, I want to open my own nonprofit organization that focuses on helping those who are suffering from drug and alcohol addictions and other debilitating issues that prevent them from being all that they can be.

I work for the City of Philadelphia License and Inspections, in the Streets Department. A few months ago coworkers suggested that I talk to the city employee liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Education. She gave me Graduate! Philadelphia’s card. I called and came in for an appointment with Laticia Booker. The environment was really open and friendly and very professional. I told her what I had done and where I wanted to go and Tish got things rolling immediately.

At Graduate! Philadelphia I met with April Fowlkes, the advisor from Chestnut Hill College who is a very positive person and who encouraged me throughout the process. After meeting with April I was ready to apply. Now, the only thing holding me back is the financial aspect. I’m unable to get Pell, PHEAA or loans right now because my account is flagged in the financial aid system for pending default on previous loans. I have over $40,000 of loans from my first try at college twenty years ago. They have been in deferment but now I have to work out a payment plan or try to consolidate them with new loans.

Once that is taken care of though, I will be eligible for Pell and PHEAA grants, and through my job I get 25% off tuition. Plus, since I graduated from CCP with a GPA above 3.5, I am also eligible for a 25% discount. I’m trying to use both discounts, but they may only let me use one.

Tish has also helped me find and apply for private scholarships. I recently was awarded the Richard Ash scholarship, which is $4,000. Writing my essay for the scholarship was therapeutic in itself, and it motivated me even more to get my degree. When I found out that I got it, that I was a Richard-A scholar, I bawled my eyes out. I’m 42 years-old and I’m a scholar? I was so happy I called Tish up and asked her to join me at the scholarship reception. I can’t wait until I have enough money to donate back to the Richard Ash scholarship fund to help another person coming up behind me.

What I have learned in this process is that you have to be self-disciplined to get where you want to go. And I learned that hope is real. You have to surround yourself with positive, genuine people. You can’t remain a victim for the rest of your life. When you become free from the past and take responsibility for life, everything opens up for you. You are no longer bound to what happened. You are free.