When Mayumi Fulgencio talks about “The Bridge: Kauai to College” and its influence on her, she has nothing but good things to say.
For good reason.
The nonprofit helped the just-graduated Kauai High senior get to where she wanted to be: the path to higher education.
“Where my family comes from, college is expected,” she said in an interview with The Garden Island. “But there’s that gap in finances, how am I really going to get there? That’s really what the Bridge does. It closes that gap.”
“It instilled a lot of confidence in me,” Fulgencio added. “It didn’t seem like a dream I can’t attain. They really made it possible.”
Fulgencio will be attending Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., which offered her a full ride she could not pass up. She was chosen to receive their “Compass Scholar Scholarship”which meets her full demonstrated need that covers whatever grants and Free Application for Federal Student Aid doesn’t cover.
“I am so very excited,” she said.
April was a good month for her, too.
Fulgencio landed the HMSA Kaimana Scholarship ($5,000), Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce ($1,000), and The Grove Farm Scholarship ($20,000).
“I am so thankful for all that has been falling into place,” she wrote.
The Bridge: Kauai to College held its mentor’s dinner last month. Tisa Herold, treasurer, reflected on how “the generous donations of time, money, and auction items enables The Bridge to give back to our Kauai kids. Together with the help of our volunteers, supporters, and donors we raised funds for foreign study scholarships to Germany and Japan and paid for specialized college requisite courses.”
Funds raised also enable The Bridge to hold the annual College Success Workshop, free to college-bound graduating seniors and their parents.
The nonprofit was launched in 2016. Founder and President Susan Davis saw the need to help local kids go to college and pursue their dreams. The Bridge pairs adult mentors with motivated high school students.
Fulgenico’s mentor was Dr. Arthur Stipanovic, professor emeritus at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, a field of particular interest to the Kauai graduate.
He also visits Kauai, which is how he heard about The Bridge and contacted Davis.
Stipanovic was a big influence, Fulgencio said. He helped narrow her college choices and reviewed her entrance essays, which are key to gaining acceptance. Through The Bridge, she strengthened her resume.
The Bridge also prepares students for the culture shock of leaving home and what to expect in the next steps of their journey.
“I wanted to also thank you, Dr. S, for the guidance you have given me throughout this college process, I took into consideration what you said about going to Germany my graduate years and studying in America for my undergrad and I think I have made the right decision,” she wrote.
Fulgencio said there are scholarship possibilities out there for graduates with initiative willing to do the research. Excellent grades, of course, help. She applied to about 15 colleges.
“I’m proud to say this past quarter I got a 4.4,” she said, smiling
For high school students looking to attend college, she said, aim high — but not too high. Be hopeful, but realistic, too.
“I’d say really choose a college that you know is well in your reach. It’s definitely harder to get scholarships at reach schools, where you know your grades don’t fall into their category,” she said.
Scholarships can keep a student from leaving college with a sea of debt. The average student loan debt for 2018 college graduates was nearly $30,000, according to Student Loan Hero.
The tuition at Lewis and Clark is about $65,000. Fulgencio’s scholarships made it doable to attend.
“You don’t want to get out of school with a huge amount of debt,” she said. “So definitely, do your research.”
And don’t forget about The Bridge.