When I was first thinking of applying to college, my knowledge was limited. I didn’t know about the process of getting in, or what ACT score I would need to compete for scholarships, or the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.
On top of that, I transferred school districts midway through my sophomore year of high school. Right away I felt like I was behind in certain subjects because of the lack of resources and the overcrowding at my previous district. It was difficult to switch schools and hear that I was not at their standard level. It was difficult to catch up. I saw how many kids at my new school had opportunities that I never had.
When I was a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had braces for a really long time, so I thought I wanted to be a dental hygienist — just random things. I was overwhelmed at the idea that college would set out my career path, when I did not know what I wanted to do with my life.
My junior year, I applied to a program called Genesys Works. The program helps low-income students build skills and pairs them with corporate offices around the Twin Cities. I spent my summer learning soft skills, like how to present, manage my anxiety around talking in public, and write an official email. These might seem like small things but it was important to have someone to teach me how to interact in a professional way.
We learned how to take apart a computer and other IT skills. After passing some tests, I was ready to start an internship at SuperValu, where I worked at the IT help desk putting together phones and Apple watches for new employees.
The job was a lot different than what I had done at earlier jobs. It was fascinating to be a high schooler helping to on-board newly hired people in the company.
The internship made me more self-confident. Senior year I was more sure about what I wanted to do with my life and better able to communicate my goals.
The Genesys program also gave us basic knowledge about applying to college. They made sure I applied to all the schools I wanted to, and helped me make a calendar for my deadlines. After I got into school they helped me figure out my budget and advised me about loans. When you are a first-generation college student, loans can be predatory. I have not taken out any so far, and I don’t plan to.
After shadowing my co-workers at Supervalu, I felt confident deciding to major in Computer Science. I like using creativity to be able to solve problems and interpret code. Learning an entirely new language of numbers and syntax is really cool to me.
At my internship I spent a lot of time explaining technologies to people. I want to tailor my major to user experience. I want to make it easier for those who have never used an app or website to learn. Now I have the knowledge about how technologies work internally, and perspective about how they could be most accessible to new users.
To me, financial empowerment is about making and managing my own money. Recently I saved up for my first car in full — reaching the goal I set for myself a year and half ago, and I am in the process of buying one.
A lot of kids like me just need a leg up. After we get started, we hit the ground running.
Faiza Mohamoud (she/her) is a student at Metropolitan State University.