When Yanira Alfonso, teacher at The Dalton Academy, started the TEPIC (Teach and Empower Parents, teachers and students, to Inspire College and career success) Foundation in January 2021, she did so with one goal in mind: to make career education accessible to all students. This October, the foundation awarded scholarships to 39 students to help make that goal a reality.
According to Alfonso, the inspiration for the foundation came from her own life experiences.
“I had a really difficult childhood,” Alfonso said. “I ended up getting married and having a baby while in high school. It was a really tough time, but I never stopped going to school. It took me 12 years to get my undergraduate degree, but I was determined.”
Although Alfonso eventually graduated from high school and went on to have a successful career, she recalls wishing she could’ve had a mentor to help guide her through the process.
“My parents didn’t graduate from college, and I remember not knowing the ins and outs of how to even go about applying for college,” Alfonso said. “I just wish I would’ve had someone that could guide me and help me figure it all out.”
Alfonso moved to The Dalton Academy this year after previously working at Dalton Middle School. When she started working with high school students, she realized the students in her classroom every day had similar stories to her own.
“There are so many kids around me that I’m serving that are just like I was,” Alfonso said. “A lot of the students that are going to be part of this, they are determined to be the first ones to graduate from college in their family. Their stories are incredible.”
Students accepted into the TEPIC Promise Scholarship program will not only receive funds for college or further education, but they will also receive mentorship and assistance in the college application process.
“I didn’t want it to be just a regular scholarship where we give you money and we never see you again,” Alfonso said. “Part of the application had a checklist of things they need help with like searching for college, applying to college, financial aid, taking the ACT or SAT. There’s a lot to do, and when you think about it, it’s overwhelming.”
Each student’s individual mentorship program is based on the topics they selected during the application process.
Daniel Guzman is a junior at The Dalton Academy, and a recipient of this scholarship. He said he is excited about the mentorship program because it will give him the opportunity to hone-in on what he wants to study after graduation.
“I was really excited and I got very emotional because I will have the opportunity to continue studying,” Guzman said. “I was excited about the scholarship, because the career assessment and mentorship will help me figure out what I want to do after graduation.”
Maria Ramirez, junior at The Dalton Academy, said she always applies to every scholarship she can find, because she is determined to go to college.
“When I found out I got the TEPIC Scholarship, I started screaming, I was so happy,” Ramirez said. “It made the rest of my day.”
She plans on attending college and studying education. Her advice for other students is to apply to scholarships whenever there is an opportunity.
“Scholarships are amazing,” Ramirez said. “Once you see an opportunity to get a scholarship, you should go for it. Education is one of the best things in this world, it is very important. Don’t be afraid, and if you fail at first, there’s always going to be more scholarships.”
The TEPIC Promise Scholarship will provide between $250 and $1,000 to every student accepted into the program. As long as students attend regular mentorship meetings, apply to at least one college and receive an admissions letter, they will receive a scholarship. Alfonso’s goal is to be able to fund $1,000 per student, or $39,000 in total, by the time this group of students graduates from high school.
If you are interested in donating, or learning more about the TEPIC Promise Scholarship, visit their website at tepicfoundation.org.