“Senior year there’s just so much going on. But I think it was my best year because I accomplished so many things. And finding help from the Future Center about all the different resources that I didn’t know existed.”

Mai Der Lee is the daughter of refugees from Laos who settled in La Crosse before she was born. English is her second language (Hmong being her first). She is also a first-generation college student. She first discovered the La Crosse Promise Future Centers during her freshman year through the outreach routinely done by Future Center Advisors. Heading into her senior year, she was introduced to Future Center Advisor Matt Gordy to address several concerns she had for her future.

At Logan High School, Mai Der was active in clubs, played on the volleyball team, and played flute in the band. Having had many positive experiences growing up in the La Crosse School District, she decided to pursue elementary education. “I would love everything about teaching, right down to making copies and writing on the board,” she said. “I have developed a great passion for it. The teachers I’ve had have been really great. They challenge you every year.”  

Having chosen this goal, she knew a four-year degree would be required, yet was unsure about navigating the process and unsure of her ability to pay for it. The Future Center helped her draft her roadmap to success, addressing confidence concerns, financial concerns, and ensuring she developed her support networks along the way. “I was shy, quiet and confused,” she said. “The Future Center made me much more comfortable. Getting to know the resources out there. Being willing to ask for help and put myself out there.”

Since her parents were unfamiliar with the process, Mai Der worked with Matt on the many steps involved with applying to, funding, and attending a university. They focused considerable attention on the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) and putting Mai Der in the best position to earn scholarships to fund her education. He connected her to community members who could coach her and made sure she was considering all her opportunities.

“If the Future Center didn’t exist, I feel like I wouldn’t have even thought about applying to UW-Eau Claire. I would not have known about the Locher scholarship, which I received. I would not have found my career goals. I would have been lost through my applications and FAFSA. I would have forgotten to send ACT scores to Eau Claire. I would have not known you can get a fee waiver for application forms,” she said.

“Senior year there’s just so much going on. But I think it was my best year because I accomplished so many things. And finding help from the Future Center about all the different resources that I didn’t know existed.”

 

Attending University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire