By Connor Kaufmann

As a freshman at Cathedral High School, I never would have imagined myself going out of El Paso for college. I had lived in El Paso my entire life, and despite knowing relatives and family friends who studied at colleges outside of El Paso, I never dreamed I would be able to do the same. 

Connor Kaufmann

That was until I met an upperclassman toward the end of my freshman year that had been accepted and was to attend Cornell University. I had never met someone from my age group, yet alone from my city, who dared to take what I thought at the time was a leap of faith to attend one of these world-tier and distant universities. 

It was only then, after seeing a peer achieve what I had previously deemed unachievable, that I found within myself the hope, courage, and motivation to work for what I now knew I could also do. 

As my own high school career progressed and it became time to apply for college, I came to realize that what I had originally believed was a leap of faith, that is the college application process as a whole, was actually the opposite. Through extensive research on my part, I came to notice the copious amounts of information out there for students just like me who had no clue where they wanted to go, or especially how their family would financially and emotionally support them. I was beginning to understand how my peer who inspired me my freshman year had been able to make his informed decision to attend the university he desired. 

As I reminisce the college application process and my entire high school career in general, now that I am back in El Paso for winter break after my first semester of college at the University of Notre Dame, I have come to realize that the only reason I am where I am today is because of that specific freshman year encounter that truly changed the course of my life. 

Now that I am back home visiting with teachers and old classmates of mine, I am beginning to notice that I was not alone in my fear and anxiety about leaving all I knew and loved in the Sun City. Students across the borderland share the same closed perspectives that I once had as a young freshman. It is difficult to imagine yourself somewhere when there is no one to look up to, and I was fortunate enough to have met the role model that allowed me to dream big.

We need more El Paso students to visualize themselves as students sitting in universities across the country – and even the world. Inspiration and motivation for young students is key to fostering dreams of all sorts, and is the first step to believing in yourself and your abilities. 

Here are various ways in which dreams can be fueled financially, emotionally, and mentally: 

To start off, $100 million in various scholarship money goes unclaimed every year. To combat this, scholarship search engines such as the Big Future Scholarship Search by College Board list hundreds of thousands of various scholarships up for grabs. Other websites similar to Big Future are Scholarships.com, Fastweb, Cappex, Niche, Scholarships360, and goingmerry.com. If you are interested in more specialized merit based scholarships, there are nationally recognized scholarships such as the Coca-Cola Scholarship and The Coolidge Scholarship.

Most of the scholarships I have brought up thus far have been privately funded and merit based, but that does not mean that there are no need-based scholarships out there, or that universities themselves do not offer scholarships. In fact, out of the almost 2,800 four-year institutions in the United States, 75 of them offer 100% of demonstrated financial need determined by family income, assets, and etc. These need-based scholarships can bring various amounts of money, ranging from full-rides to just thousands of dollars, to families all over the world who could not pay for their children’s education without drowning in loans. 

With regards to resources to fuel dreams emotionally and mentally, universities will typically offer counseling services at no extra cost to full-time students. This may not be the case for online and part-time students, though. Aside from counseling centers, many universities have designated wellness centers that offer relaxation rooms, special study rooms, and even napping rooms. In addition, universities are generally understanding about mental health circumstances and will do their best to accommodate you both in and out of class. 

With all of this being said, it is important to always keep in mind that El Paso will always be here for you, just like you will always be here for it. Follow your heart and dreams; do not let anything or anyone extinguish the spark of hope, motivation, and inspiration that you acquire during your young years as a student. Instead kindle that spark into a fire of passion to one day come back home to the community that brought you up, so that you can give back to it.

Never stop dreaming.

Connor Kaufmann is a first-year student at the University of Notre Dame and proud graduate of Cathedral High School. Upon graduation from Notre Dame, he intends to go to law school. He was born and raised in El Paso and is passionate about giving back to his community in every way possible.