11 Jul Finding Purpose Through Education
How Yuzellie Turned a Dark Experience into a Drive for The Future
By Dayhanna Acosta, Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation
Two years ago, Yuzellie Garcia decided to return to school to become the person she needed when she was a child.
“I graduated in 2012 and spent a few years not knowing what I wanted to do,” says Yuzellie.
But when it finally came time to decide what to do Yuzellie sought purpose and meaning from her childhood experiences. Yuzellie’s upbringing wasn’t easy. She grew up in a single-parent household with three siblings. Her mom worked three jobs and struggled to make ends meet. Yuzellie also experienced sexual and emotional abuse.
“I’m studying what I’m studying because of the sexual and emotional abuse I endured. Things like being locked in a dark closet all day and growing up with shame, self-blame, and guilt. Thinking it was my fault, and not having anyone there to show me that what was going on wasn’t okay, and it wasn’t my fault,” says Yuzellie.
Yuzellie is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice; she will be attending FSU this summer to study Criminology and Criminal Justice and hopes to use her education to work in the human trafficking field. Her journey has led her to find a very clear purpose; to help children who are struggling with abuse. Children in low-income homes, who may be at risk. Children who may need a mentor like herself.
Yuzellie is on the path to fulfilling her goal thanks to the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation Earn to Learn FL Program. Earn to Learn FL, helps low-to-moderate income students earn a higher education with little or no student debt. It’s a simple formula that combines mandatory student savings with financial aid, required financial literacy training, and success coaching. Through the program, Yuzellie has been able to secure $9,000 to fund her education. She has saved $1,000 of her funds and received an $8,000 match supported by the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation and local partners like the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.
“The Earn to Learn experience has been amazing; it’s so easy. The application was very fast. The lengthiest thing was the Financial literacy course, but that was helpful. It wasn’t something that you would dread to do. The Women’s Foundation worked with me and my circumstances.” Says Yuzellie.
For students like Yuzellie education is much more than a simple degree. It’s a way to serve and fulfill their purpose. To pay it forward so that future generations have the opportunity to thrive.
Are you interested in investing in the future of other students like Yuzellie? Visit http://fundwomenfl.org/ to donate.
This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2018 competitive grant cycle. We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com