After his father left, Jonard’s mother raised him and his brother by herself. Money was tight, and Jonard remembers how his mom put her children first. “She always made sure we had food in our mouths before she did.”
Her sacrifices motivated him. “I felt like I’d lift a big weight off her shoulders if she knew I graduated college with a great degree and went on to do bigger and better things. I just wanted to make her proud.”
However, when he started looking at schools as a junior, he was confronted with the high cost of attending college. He started to worry that even though he had done well in high school, his achievements might not be enough get him a college degree.
Jonard remained positive and didn't let the financial obstacle stop him. He told himself, “You’re going to college, no matter what it takes.”
Treating the application process like a class project, he broke it down into small pieces and scheduled them among his many other activities. He went online to research colleges, practice for the SAT and find help paying for college.
Jonard’s biggest challenge was filling out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). It’s the way to qualify for many types of aid, including grants, loans and work-study jobs, as well as aid provided by some states and colleges. “[The FAFSA] was pretty long,” Jonard says. “You had to find a lot of [financial] information about your family and yourself. But it all paid off in the end."
Jonard landed a scholarship and a grant that, together, pay for his tuition and books. To save on housing costs, he lives off campus with his grandparents who have a house near the university.
Jonard says he was pleasantly surprised by college. “It's really not as hard as people make it seem.”
One of his favorite classes was Introduction to Sociology. “It opened my eyes to a lot of things — gender, race, sexuality, the media,” he says. “It made me view the world in a different, better way.”
When Jonard graduates he hopes to find a job that allows him to be “financially stable, to love what [he’s] doing, and to wake up in the morning wanting to go to work.”