Giving Back: Serving First Generation and Low Income College Students with Yuridia Tilapa

At Holistic, we believe in building better individuals out of your organization and providing them with tools to carve a path to success. When individuals receive this type of support, it opens a door of opportunity to give back. We are proud to highlight an individual who overcame and tore down barriers to achieve success and is now giving back to the community. Yuridia Tilapa is the Assistant Director of Admissions at COE College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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We were able to interview Yuridia to find out more about how she is using her personal experience to give back to the community.


Tell me a bit about your background and early education:

I graduated from John Hancock College Prep in 2012. At the time I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do and I often found myself wondering if college was for me. I was able to visit COE College for a weekend and I thought I’d take the risk. I planned to go into education because my high school teachers really inspired me and motivated me. However, I ended up studying pharmacy and public health. I realized that I wanted to do something more. I decided to then transfer to study Sociology with a focus on equality and social justice. Nonetheless, with the help and support of my family and COE College, I was able to graduate. Soon after, I began working in the admissions department. Three years later, I am now the Assistant Director of Admissions.

What is your role as Assistant Director of Admissions?

I work with Senior year high school students from Chicago and Arizona that are in the college search process. Many of these students are first generation college attendees or come from low income neighborhoods and families. I help these students find and fill out scholarship applications. I also set up college visits to COE. We have a bus that transports students to COE that otherwise would have not had a chance to visit or experience COE.

What are some of the challenges that these students face?

Aside from their background, a challenge these students face is that they don’t know the value and cost of college. Many of them do not qualify for FAFSA because they are undocumented. Although we offer a scholarship for these students at COE, not everyone is chosen as a recipient.

What are some of your personal challenges as Assistant Director of Admissions?

Being a first-generation college graduate in my family, I faced a language barrier. Not because I didn’t speak English but because the vocabulary was different. I was in a new atmosphere when I arrived at COE. I would set high expectations for myself and feel bad for not reaching those goals. I also had no personal life after I moved here because my friends and family are back in Chicago. In the workspace, one of the challenges has been being a person of color. I believe wherever we go, we must take out ethnicity with us. To me that has meant to have tough conversations with peers and colleagues on what is acceptable and what is not.

How would you compare your own goals as the years have gone by?

When I was younger, I would hear that I needed to go to college and when I was in college my goal was to make it to the finish line. Currently, I want to continue working with students, establish security for myself and my future family, and help other students finish strong in their careers.