When Pilar’s mom made her enroll in Girls Inc. in eighth grade to “expand her horizons”, she never pictured herself touring college campuses with her Girls Inc. sisters five years later. But this month, Pilar was one of 20 rising seniors who went on an all-expenses-paid trip to see Southern California schools, to help prepare them for college application and enrollment.
Despite her initial reluctance to join Girls Inc., Pilar quickly found it to be an important part of her life. Growing up with brothers, Pilar deeply valued the girls-only space that Girls Inc. provided to talk about the issues affecting young women. In addition, Pilar went to schools where she was often the only black girl in class, which challenged her to fit in both at school and back in her own neighborhood. But at Girls Inc., Pilar was part of a community rich in diversity, and forged deep connections with girls from many different racial and ethnic backgrounds. As she puts it, “Girls Inc. gave me the support and the space to figure out who I was… gave me the freedom to look inside myself and figure out… what kind of person I was.”
At Girls Inc., Pilar took STEM classes, completed paid professional internships, and then, as she moved toward her senior year, received support to prepare for college. She researched potential schools, talked to alumnae and university representatives, learned about budgeting and financial aid, and began doing pre-work for her college and scholarship applications.
Finally, this summer, Pilar joined her peers on the weekend-long trip to Southern California, visiting schools including UC Santa Barbara, UC San Diego, and UCLA. Despite 100+ degree temperatures, she took in the libraries and the classrooms and the quads, noticed the campus artwork and the dining hall offerings, talked with admissions advisors, and even learned a little bit about a Hogwarts-themed dorm. And she started to picture herself there.
Picturing herself in college became easier for another reason that Pilar didn’t expect. “I didn’t really expect too much diversity in college,” she admits, “but going to that college and seeing all the different people, people of different races, people who aren’t usually seen as being able to get into that school— seeing that was a confidence boost.”
Pilar is now ready to take the next steps toward her dream of getting her Ph.D in psychology, and coupling her work in mental health with a passion for poetry. And why these fields? Because, as Pilar puts it, “I want to reach people and give them the resources that I didn’t have growing up.”