Nicole Morales Lum aspires to be a doctor. She found the support she needed to reach her goal in SF State’s Educational Opportunity Program, which provides advising, tutoring, workshops and other crucial services to low-income and first-generation college students. Lorenzo Garcia, her academic advisor, said he was impressed with Nicole’s ability to maintain a high GPA and her determination to succeed.
Nicole focused on becoming the first in her family to graduate from college and paved the way for her 13-year-old sister Ella. Because their mother speaks English as a second language, and their father works long hours at a car dealership, Ella counted on Nicole to help with homework.
Like many students, Nicole was hard-pressed to pay for her tuition, housing and books. She and her parents took out loans from Federal Student Aid to pay her tuition and housing. All but $90 of her student loan --not enough to pay for the average textbook -- went to tuition. Nicole worked 10 to 15 hours a week for the Alumni Association, which helped pay for her books. Between semesters, she interned at the cardiothoracic surgery department at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, where she volunteered during high school.
“It was a struggle for me financially, but it was worth it,” she says, “because my ultimate goal is to help other people. I want to give them a second chance at life.”