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Sarah Vargas

Sarah is a single-parent and a Hispanic first-generation college student. She would qualify for EOPS but has no idea such a service exists.

  • Primary Goal: Get a better job to support her daughter.
  • Main Challenges: Many college websites and services do not support Spanish speakers; financial assistance.
  • Occupation: Retail
  • Age: 22

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Navigating the college system is really hard for Spanish-speaking students.

When Sarah told her mom about the brochure she had received from the local community college, her mom just smiled and continued with her chores. But Sarah was persistent. The following Monday, she and her two-year-old daughter took the bus to the local college. Sarah had gone to high school in California, but the idea of going to college was very overwhelming for her. Pushing her daughter in the stroller around the campus, she felt worried and out of place.

She eventually found her way to the One Stop Center, but nobody there spoke Spanish. Someone gave her a link to the application website and walked her to a computer where she could apply. The website had an option to see the information in Spanish. She picked her college from the list and clicked apply. But the site she was redirected to was not in Spanish and she was stuck again. After a few more unsuccessful attempts, she gave up and decided to go home. She thought that perhaps she could get her cousin, a college student, to help her with the process at home.

Over the weekend, Sarah convinced her cousin to come over and help her with the application. They finished the application but still couldn’t register because they had to wait for her admission letter and student ID. Sarah discovered that she had missed the registration period for the current semester, so she had to wait until summer or fall semester. Late that week, Sarah got an email from the college that included her student ID and also a few pages of dos and don’ts. It was very overwhelming and she didn’t really understand most of it.

That weekend, Sarah and her cousin got together again. The instructions told them to book an appointment with a counselor, watch a one-hour orientation video, and go to the campus to take something called an assessment test. The orientation video took longer than an hour because Sarah’s cousin had to for Sarah and explain many of the terms. It was a lot of information and Sarah didn’t think she would remember all of it.

Later that week, Sarah asked her mom to watch her daughter, and she took the bus to campus for the Assessment test. She eventually found the Assessment Center and was told that she could take the tests for English and math. The whole thing took about three hours, but she found out that she needed to take English 040 (two levels below college-level English) and Math 010 (three levels below college-level math). She also walked over to make a counseling appointment. She asked if she could meet with a counselor who spoke Spanish, but there weren’t any available. So she made an appointment for the following week with whomever was available.

Throughout the process, Sarah’s mom made it clear that she was displeased that Sarah was wasting her time going back and forth to the college instead of looking for a job.