Breaking Through Financial Barriers Senior Stephanie Williams '18 says W&L's First-Generation Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) gave her support to overcome obstacles and mentor other low-income students.
“Overall, my experiences at W&L have taught me how to take more opportunities and open doors for myself — ones I might not have originally thought possible.”
Hometown: Concord, North Carolina
Major: Global Politics
Minors: Russian Language and Culture, Middle East and South Asia Studies
Being a low-income student at a school like W&L can be a little challenging, so a lot of my experiences in college revolved around finding various resources to accomplish all the things I wanted to do. In my senior year at W&L, a group of students (including Kiki Spiezio ’18, Taylor Reese ’19 and Edwin Castellanos ’20) brought FLIP to our campus. FLIP is the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership, and it brings together students and faculty members who are, or were, first-generation and/or low-income students.
I was already a part of the Questbridge organization on campus, but the FLIP program created small mentorship groups composed of both students and faculty members to provide a small and direct support network for its members. My mentorship group included two faculty/staff members, myself, and one first-year student. We got off to a bit of a slow start, but eventually we were meeting once every other week for lunch, as well as attending organized FLIP events. It was great to get to know faculty members who had been in a similar situation as I am in now as a low-income student just trying to stay afloat during college.
I also felt good that I could pass on what I had learned from my time here at W&L to my first-year friend; and we really did become friends. As I put it during one of our official FLIP dinner events, being a part of these mentorship groups was like getting free friends. You already knew you had things in common and were interested in reaching out to each other, all you had to do was do it. The mentoring aspect wasn’t even the main focus of our biweekly lunches. We shared life experiences, placed each other in Hogwarts Houses, discussed favorite family recipes, and so much more.
At official FLIP dinners, we met with all the members of the organization and shared with each other helpful ideas we’d picked up and resources we’d discovered, and this way we made each other’s lives here slightly less stressful (or at least no more stressful than the life of a college student already is). I was fortunate enough to receive grant funding through CIE and alumni-sponsored scholarships to spend my summer at an internship with the Near East Foundation while also studying Arabic in Jordan. I was able to share my insight into financial aid options for study abroad with my fellow FLIP members as well as encourage them to not let financial insecurity stop them from stepping outside their comfort zone.
In my experience, making face-to-face connections and having a kind and respectful attitude can open a lot of doors and create many unexpected opportunities. My work-study helped me with that as well. I work at the Lenfest Center for the Performing Arts, and my supervisor, Susan Wager, has given me so many opportunities to grow professionally and individually. She is always there when I need her. My Box Office supervisor, Rena Cromer, has also given me so much support and advice over the years. I always suggest to my younger FLIP friends to explore their options in work study and to develop strong relationships with their supervisors, because they are really the most helpful and encouraging people when it comes to figuring out how to be a real adult. Overall, my experiences at W&L have taught me how to take more opportunities and open doors for myself — ones I might not have originally thought possible.
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