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Program gets students focused on the future

RHS student Netzy Garay has worked hard this year to get ready for college. She now has to figure out how to pay for higher education. Garay, who was born in Mexico, falls under the DREAM Act and does not qualify for federal student aid.

Like most high school seniors Netzy Garay has goals for the future. The one in her sights at the moment is getting into college.

Again like most high school seniors, gaining entrance and finding a way to pay for college have taken a front seat in Garay’s life. But she has some particular challenges that others don’t face.

Garay’s parents moved to the United States from Mexico to give their three children an opportunity for education. Garay is not an American citizen and so she cannot access Federal Student Aid opportunities.

Determined, Garay has been researching ways to pay for college including through work, scholarships and other financial aid programs available to Dream Act students.

While it’s a formidable task, Garay said she has the tools and support to turn her goal into reality. One of Garay’s cheerleaders is Nickie Carrigan, her STRIVE Mentor.

More than halfway through the year, Garay credits the Rosemount Rotary mentoring program for helping her get to the point that college is even a possibility. STRIVE is an acronym for Students Taking Renewed Interest Valuing Education.

At the beginning of the year, assistant principal Kim Budde identified Garay as a good candidate for Rosemount Rotary’s STRIVE program. The program pairs adult mentors with seniors to help them succeed in their final year of high school.

“I know I can do better with someone helping me,” said Garay of Carrigan’s mentorship.

Specifically, Garay said STRIVE has taught her a lot about setting goals.

That knowledge has already paid off. Garay made a goal to improve grades and said through the second trimester her GPA is up.

Her ultimate goal is to receive the STRIVE scholarship for most improved GPA, but she has to get through her last trimester of high school.

Garay said her last trimester will be tough. She’s taking economics and AP psychology. While worried the classes will be difficult, Garay said she is reading to put in the work.

“It’s going to be hard but I’m going to keep trying the best that I can,” said Garay.

Through STRIVE, Garay has also gained some new perspective on the future.

As part of the program some of the STRIVE mentors have shared their stories, including successes and failures.

Garay said it’s been helpful to hear adults talk about their struggles and how they overcame them to get where they are at now.

Carrigan, for example, didn’t start out with the intent of becoming a fitness instructor and business owner. Carrigan owns Nickie Carrigan Fitness:The Warehouse. She went to school to become an English teacher.

By sharing their stories, Carrigan said, the mentors were trying to take some of the pressure off the students as they face post-high school decisions. Part of the exercise was to help the students identify the things that are important to them.

“We’ve been concentrating on choices,” said Carrigan. “Concentrating on finding that thing that makes them tick.”

Garay is interested in psychology. She also loves animals and has been thinking about volunteering at an animal shelter to get a feel for that work.

Regardless of her career path, Garay feels college is the best way to ensure a bright future. Currently she’s considering Inver Hills Community College or the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Her parents will help Garay with some of the expenses but she said she doesn’t want to burden them if she can help it.

Garay works more than 20 hours a week at Goodwill. She plans to continue working through college to help pay for her education. She’s also hopeful she’ll earn scholarships through STRIVE and other programs available to her.

While things are up in the air, Garay said she’s grateful STRIVE has helped get her to this point.

“It’s helped build my self-esteem and provided me with resources,” said Garay.

This story is part of a three-part series. The Independent Town Pages will check in again with Garay and Carrigan at the end of the year to see how things panned out.

Emily Zimmer
Emily Zimmer has worked as a staff writer for the Rosemount Town Pages since 2007. She has a degree in journalism from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Outside of work, Emily enjoys running, reading and gardening. You can follow Emily's gardening adventures at the Areavoices blog East of Weedin'
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