Name: Syerra Gardner
University: California State University San Bernardino
Graduation Date: December 2023
When I received the SchoolHouse Connection scholarship, I was living in a shelter and wondering where life would take me after graduation. I knew I wanted to go to college, but I wasn’t sure if I would be able to afford it. I had just recently met with the shelter manager about my release date because I would soon turn 18 and not be eligible to stay. My future was up in the air, but that’s when I received a call saying I had won the national SchoolHouse Connection scholarship and that I would be receiving a $2,000 financial award, two all expenses paid trips where I would meet other students with similar experiences, and support with navigating getting to and through college. I was so excited, because this meant that I was likely going to be able to go to college and that I would have a support system to help me along the way.
I was so nervous when I got on the plane for my awards ceremony trip in 2019 because I didn’t know what to expect. When I stepped off the plane though, I could see this huge sign that said my name, and I could immediately feel the love and kindness from the team. I met nine other students with similar experiences to my own and, throughout the trip, I began to feel a connection and love that was special to me because I was coming from a shelter and had not received that kind of love from my family. Meeting and connecting with other scholars from around the country has been a really great experience. I’m able to listen to their experiences and ideas, and it brings me comfort because it lets me know that I’m not alone.
SchoolHouse has helped me tremendously academically. They have provided me with academic resources and financially helped with paying for books and school supplies each semester. Without them, I likely wouldn’t have been able to afford my books or had the resources necessary to continue my education. SchoolHouse has also helped me professionally. I am majoring in Sociology and I plan to get my masters degree in social work. SchoolHouse staff have been consistently available to talk with me about questions I have about the field of social work and supporting young people. They helped me develop a resume so that I can highlight my achievements. They also have provided me with opportunities to engage in advocacy and begin what I hope is a lifelong career.
Lastly, SchoolHouse has helped me become the person I am today. When I first won the scholarship, I didn’t know what it was going to take to get through college and reach my goal of becoming an advocate for young people like me. Over the last two years, SchoolHouse has supported me, advocated for me, and provided me with opportunities to explore and work towards my goals. I’ve witnessed their determination in supporting students across the country, and I hope that one day I too can give young people the resources and opportunity they need to reach their educational and life goals.