As a first-generation college student, Paloma Perez knows the value of opportunity. This West Chester University junior accounting and finance major has seen several doors open for her both here and in high school. Now that she’s been named one of the first Voya Financial Scholars, she sees even more open doors.
Voya chose only five students in the country for its first group of scholars. The distinction includes a $10,000 scholarship, plus opportunities provided by Voya Financial and its employees, including networking and additional internship and hiring opportunities that may arise. Scholarship recipients are paired directly with Voya employee mentors.
The partnership between Voya Financial and Chester County Futures showed Perez opportunities with professionals who could be examples “for first-generation students of their potential, of what the world has to offer them,” she says in a video posted to CCF’s Facebook page. She is proof of the efficacy of the support given students through Chester County Futures. While at Oxford Area High School, Perez was a participant in CCF’s program of comprehensive academic support, mentoring, and scholarships that is designed “to prepare [economically at-risk youth] for college readiness and provide the life skills needed to be self-sufficient and to prosper,” according to their mission statement.
CCF connected her with Chester County’s Latino Luncheon group, which awarded her a scholarship — only one of the many benefits she received from the group. As Perez notes in an appreciation video she posted to the group’s Facebook page, she thanks the members for “the relationships they allowed me to build with them. Having people who sincerely believe in you motivates you to work hard.”
Perez has been a Start intern with PricewaterhouseCoopers and an ESL teaching assistant, teaching English to Spanish-speaking adults at the Oxford Public Library through La Comunidad Hispana. She is also president of the accounting honor society on campus, Beta Alpha Psi, Nu Zeta Chapter.
Her education, she says in the CCF/Voya video, “means an opportunity to make my mother’s sacrifices, as well as mine, worthwhile. It’s an opportunity for a better future and an opportunity to give back one day to students, similar to how many individuals and organizations have helped me out.”
Voya officials surprised Perez by videotaping an “interview” with her, ostensibly a requirement for applying for the scholars program. Of the distinction of being named one of the inaugural Voya Scholars, she says, “[It’s] an honor to be validated by a financial services company that’s known for their community service and empowering individuals. I’d love to be affiliated with people who invest in students because I hope one day to be able to do the same.
“You’re helping me set an example, be an example for future generations and I promise it will not be in vain.”