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February 2015

 

Reclaiming Maria's Promise
Cynthia Eaton

 

maria borrayo
Eastern campus honors student Maria Borrayo wants state legislators to reclaim the promise of affordable public higher education. (photo by Cynthia Eaton)

Maria Borrayo wants New York State legislators to reclaim the promise of affordable public higher education.

An honors student at SCCC, Maria feels the stress of struggling to balance her academic, work and family obligations.

She comes from modest means: her mother is a cook at a local Head Start, her father is a greenhouse grower in an East End nursery.

Maria supports herself by working as a nanny for a wealthy NYC family 20 to 24 hours every weekend and as a secretary 12 hours during the week. She babysits and cleans houses as often as she can to earn a little extra.

She knows the value of hard work and good work: she has volunteered at soup kitchens, teaches vacation Bible school and has served on mission trips to Costa Rica and Guatemala with her church. She has devoted her life to helping others in need.

On campus, she's a member of Phi Theta Kappa, has worked with the honors club and currently leads the editorial staff of the campus art and literary magazine.

“I’m majoring in special education,” she notes. “I care deeply about helping others like my brother Miguel who has Down syndrome.”

Maria cuts back on sleep to help maintain her current 3.7 GPA, but it takes a toll.

“If SCCC tuition was lowered,” Maria says, “I could quit working as a secretary. That’d give me 12 hours every week to study or to pursue an internship or a research opportunity. Now that would be a dream come true.”

Maria longs to be able to save a little extra for her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. “It hurts that so many colleges feel out of reach due to finances. I know I have the potential. I have the skills. I have the work ethic. I just don’t have the money.”

If the state reclaims its promise, funding 40% of the SCCC operating budget, students like Maria—who’s among the 61% of SCCC students who work 20+ hours a week—will have a greater chance at success.

Maria has signed the Reclaiming the Promise petition that's been circulating on campus.

"I'm grateful that the college and the teacher's union are fighting for students. I get so stressed just thinking about the future, about how I'm going to be able to afford achieving my goals. I don't want to have to cling to the hope of scholarships. It's just not fair."