When Samuel Noyola moved to Cleveland with his family from Puerto Rico, he came with big dreams. He dreamed of becoming the first in his family to graduate from college and then of starting his life as an entrepreneur with his own accounting business.
These dreams also came with tremendous pressure. Coming to the U.S. as a high school sophomore, he felt the pressure to quickly master a second language and then to navigate the complicated college process without the guidance of family members who had traveled this path before him. He did not want to let his family down.
“I am grateful for my family for the sacrifice they made for me to come here and give me this opportunity,” Samuel said. “I wanted to do well so that all the sacrifices they made for me were not in vain.”
Samuel had found support through Esperanza to help him graduate from high school, so as he enrolled at Cuyahoga Community College to work toward his associate’s degree in business, he stayed involved in Esperanza’s post-secondary programs to help navigate the challenges of college.
“At first, I was just excited and proud to be going to college. Then, I realized how many challenges there are,” Samuel said. “I wouldn’t have known what to do without Esperanza and would have been lost in college.”
Through Esperanza’s post-secondary Lideres Avanzando Program, Samuel learned time management skills, how to talk to teachers, to utilize office hours, to create a course plan that would lead to graduation, and how to find support and tutoring services so he didn’t fall through the cracks of what can be the overwhelming college experience.
“Esperanza helped me immensely,” Samuel said. “Through Lideres, they taught it’s OK to ask questions and even one time gave me a homework assignment to go talk to one of my teachers. Esperanza made me go so I could get help. The program has helped me be independent in college.”
Samuel also found guidance on how to schedule classes, what types of teachers might work best for him, how to complete the FAFSA and how and when to apply for much-needed college scholarships.
In fact, Samuel credits the support of Esperanza for his success last year in securing his associate’s degree, with honors, and then enrolling at Cleveland State, where he expects to complete his bachelor’s degree in business next year. As Samuel looked to begin his final semester at Tri-C, he was discouraged to learn he was actually two humanities courses short of completing his degree in the spring.
“I thought I was all set to graduate last May and then I found out I was two humanities credits short. The college said ‘no, you cannot graduate’ and I was freaking out,” Samuel said. “It was important to me that I graduate in May, so that I could apply for all the scholarships for Cleveland State in the fall. Without the scholarships, I wouldn’t be able to go.”
The team at Esperanza stepped in to help, counseling Samuel to work with the Hispanic Council at Tri-C to receive college credit for his ability to speak and write in Spanish. He took the placement test, passed with flying colors and received the two humanities credits he needed to complete his associate’s degree in time to apply for the essential scholarship applications. Samuel believes without Esperanza’s help, he wouldn’t be attending Cleveland State today and one step closer to his dream life as an entrepreneur.
“God bless Esperanza because they gave me the opportunity to graduate. Esperanza became my family because they taught me how to do it and gave me the confidence to keep working,” he said.