After playing varsity football in high school, Jonathan was ready to take his game to the college level and he looked into athletic scholarships. But when his grandmother died, he was no longer so sure about his college plans. "She had passed and I took it hard, so I put everything off. She couldn't even get to go to my graduation... so it really just messed me up."
Without any financial support from family, Jonathan also knew any further education would be his own responsibility. "I had a burden on myself to pay for college. I didn't have extra help."
Even though he didn't go to college right away, Jonathan was driven by two things: the promise he'd made to his grandmother to further his education and the desire to prove something to others. "I just wanted to succeed... My biggest fear was failing, so I've done everything in my power to not fail."
Jonathan's first passion was to be a pilot, but he quickly realized that career didn't fit in with his other goals. "I've talked to some of the pilots and they're not home much. And I feel like in the future I want to be a family man. So air traffic control was still in the airline category and that's something I would love to do."
Jonathan found a nearby technical college that offered a major in air traffic control. He made sure it was part of a program run by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) so that he'd qualify for a job when the time came. He also wanted to stay close to home for emotional support in case he needed it, so for him it was the perfect fit.
Jonathan wasn't embarrassed to ask about financial aid. "I went in with confidence. I needed help, but knew once I received help I was going to take college seriously. That's how I looked at it." He took the time to learn the process and evaluate all the forms of aid. He approached the financial aid office at his college for guidance. They gave him information on grants and he went online and applied.
Jonathan finds the work in college much more intense than in high school. He balances his studies with a part-time job at an airline, which helps pay extra expenses. "I don't think college is hard; it's time-consuming. If you can manage your time, you can do well."
Looking back, Jonathan says, "It feels good that I made the decision to go to college, because I know that higher education means a lot in this country. And for me, it means that I have a good chance of becoming more stable in my life, lifelong."