ASPIRA: Equality in Education

We provide free college application assistance to low-resourced high school students and pay for their college application fees.

Photo of Cleo Hastings
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Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Start-Up (first few activities have happened)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Due to education inequality, students from lower income families are allocated fewer school resources, which limits their progression in the college application process. This problem exists for first-generation college students, immigrant students, and students of single-parent households in particular because of limited access of resources and guidance. We solve the problem by providing proper guidance and opportunities for students.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We plan on solving this problem by using our five-step thought process that is also attached in this application. 1)Why am I interested in pursuing higher education? 2)Is a 4 or 2-year university better for me? 3)How do I narrow down what schools I want to apply to? 4)Now that I have selected a few schools, what do I need? 5)What if I get in but can't afford it? My team and I will travel to inner-city high schools in order to connect with the junior and senior students. My plan is to work in small groups with the students for the college application process. Fundraising is going to be vital for us to pay for the students' college fees. Personally, completing the CSS Profile, Common Application, and FAFSA were tedious and confusing for me; especially since I had no help. Many students will not have the proper guidance so it is up to ASPIRA to be that helping hand for success.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

As a high-achieving high school student, I realized even I did not know where to start when applying for colleges. I asked my peers for help, but they did not know where to start either. My high school had over 400 seniors with one college guidance counselor. You can imagine that she was extremely busy and did not have much time to sit with me during the process. I felt stuck, a lot of the terminology was new to me and I had no clue as to what I was doing. Finally, I realized I should ask someone that was currently in college seeing that they had just went through the process and would be able to mentor me. I eventually found an amazing person to help and I am forever grateful for her assistance. Our connection truly inspired me and influenced me to create ASPIRA.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...” For some reason it isn't letting me attach my video link. Hopefully my pasted link works for you all.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

When a high school student is involved in ASPIRA, first they meet with a college student who is their mentor. The student may ask their mentor any questions they have about college or the application process. After answering their questions, the mentor goes through the application process with the student. Throughout the course of a few weeks, the mentor will help the student figure out where to apply, how to look for scholarships, what application materials are needed, what a good personal statement looks like, etc. Upon completing the curriculum with their mentor, the student will submit their college application. Ultimately, we look forward to seeing more underserved students in college.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

There are very few programs that focus solely on the transition between high school and college. Additionally, our project is run by college students; therefore, we are closer in age and experience to the students that we assist. We are able to give accurate feedback based off of our own experiences. Finally, the services that our project offers are not in the Miami-Dade area for free. Our mentors are college educated students who read and edit students’ essays with them. Often times this is considered consulting and very costly for families; however, our mentors do this for free.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

My team and I recently hosted a school supply fundraising event where a little over 50 people were in attendance. We collected over two big containers of supplies. These materials have been donated to a local high school in Little Haiti, Miami. At this same event, we offered free FAFSA assistance. We are a start-up, but our plan in the near future is to host more events and raise awareness to this problem that many students face. We really want to get the community involved and supporting the students as much as we do.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

In the upcoming years, expanding to multiple high schools would be ideal. Attaining partnerships with local community colleges and state-wide universities to arrange tours and . We aim to fundraise enough money to aid students with scholarships for dorm supplies, enrollment fees, etc. as they transition into college.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Project Management

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Friend support
  • Family support
  • Sales
  • Mentors/advisors
  • Donations less than $100

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Email


Join the conversation:

Photo of Tia Johnston Brown

Yes! I think you are totally right that students will be more likely to feel comfortable and motivated getting help applying to colleges from peers rather than adults.

Photo of Cleo Hastings

Most definitely! The comfort of our students is a top priority.

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