Phoenix, AZ – Ruben Aguirre, who earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona and later worked for the organization, is using his life experience and college education to help keep Arizona’s highest potential high school students within the state’s university system, rather than attending an Ivy League school out of state.
Ruben has worked for the Flinn Foundation for more than five years and heads up the organization’s Flinn Scholars Program, “The scholarship program provides an unparalleled package for undergraduate study at an Arizona public university for twenty of the state’s highest-achieving high school seniors each year. Our merit-based scholarship program, now 32 classes strong, covers the cost of tuition, fees, room and board and at least two study-abroad experiences. The overall financial package is valued at more than 115-thousand dollars. Flinn Scholars, who attend Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, or the University of Arizona, also benefit from working with top faculty and researchers, meeting business and civic leaders in their field, and forming their own community and alumni network.”
Ruben, age 28, was born and raised in the Town of Kearny, Arizona where he graduated from high school, before attending the University of Arizona and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Media Arts.
Ruben is among the hundreds of high potential students from low income circumstances who have earned a scholarship from College Success Arizona. The current scholarship provides up to six-thousand dollars per year for education expenses, and students also receive specialized mentoring services from a team of highly skilled “Success Advisers.” Ruben explains that the mentoring was a big help.
“I’m a first-generation college student from a small town, who didn’t know a whole lot about college. So, for me it was important to have the support and guidance from College Success Arizona and another organizations, as I transitioned from high school to the U of A in Tucson. It was this type of support that really helped me flourish at the university.”
Ruben adds that the financial support provided by College Success Arizona was also very helpful, “Yes absolutely. And that’s something that I’m very appreciative for – being able to graduate with virtually no debt. The financial support provided so much freedom for me to be able to think about the next step in life, whether it be attending graduate school or moving out of state, without having to stress about paying off huge student loans.”
Meanwhile, after graduating from the University of Arizona, Ruben didn’t have to go far to find a job, “My first job out of college was with College Success Arizona in an administrative position. So, I went full circle from being an applicant, to a scholar, to a staff member at College Success Arizona. After working at College Success for a while, I learned of an opportunity at the Flinn Foundation, which I pursued – and here I am.”
For Ruben, having advisers and mentors throughout college, is now helping him provide guidance to the Flinn Scholars, “Having had advisers from College Success Arizona, I have a unique experience where I am able to really help scholars in our one-on-one meetings walk through different scenarios whether they’re having potential questions about classes or they want to brainstorm about studying abroad, I can really draw on my experiences with College Success Arizona, to really offer that same type of support to them.”
Ruben adds that many of the Flinn Scholars are building their lives in Arizona, “At this point we have over five-hundred alumni, students who have gone through the program, and who are now seasoned professionals. Some of them attended graduate school outside of Arizona but come back to here to start their career and families, and to be close their families.”
Middle and high school students in Kearny and elsewhere may consider Ruben’s pre-college advice helpful, “As a high school student, I spent a lot of time in my guidance counselor’s office where I would fill out applications for as many opportunities as possible. So, I would encourage students to do the same sort of thing, and also – ask a lot of questions because guidance counselors and teachers are there to be a resource, and to help.”
Like many first-generation college graduates, Ruben’s family played a big role in motivating him, “From a very early age, my mom told me that I was going to college. It was never a conversation of whether I wanted to go or not go. So that’s something that I never really questioned, and the plan of attending college for me, probably from the first grade on, was just a fact of life. As I entered high school, I remember getting very excited about graduating and moving onto the next chapter and going to college. So, when I did graduate from college it was just as much a triumph for me as it was for my mom, because this was a dream for her as well.”
Since 2005, College Success Arizona has worked with nearly 1,300 students, and provided more than 16 million dollars in scholarships and success services to help increase the college attainment rate in Arizona. If you would like to be part of the mission of providing educational opportunity to high potential students from low income circumstances, your tax deductible contribution can be made through the “Donate” button on the top of this page.