WASFAA Success Stories

Ariana Bolton
Multi-National Operations Manager/Sr/ Fashion Training Manager, Sharaf Retail Group, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

A former foster youth who went on to graduate from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) with the help of financial aid, Ariana is eager to give back.

Ariana earned her degree in 2010 and now works as an international buyer in Dubai. But along the way, despite facing hardship after hardship, she juggled part-time design jobs and still found time to speak to other foster youth and help them understand how they could benefit from the California Chafee Grant, which offers up to $5,000 per year for job training or college to eligible students who are or were in foster care and have financial need.

“No job or assignment was beneath her,” says Patricia Martinez, assistant director of compliance for FIDM, who submitted Ariana’s story. “She found each challenge an opportunity to learn and grow.”

Ariana's story was submitted by Patricia Martinez, assistant director of compliance at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising.


Rocio CarrionRocio Carrion
Academic Coordinator, Washington State University Upward Bound

As an undocumented immigrant, Rocio viewed a college education as “a cloud in the sky; I could see it but could not reach it,” she says. Rather than give up, Rocio spent countless hours in her high school’s library researching scholarships that would allow a “DREAMER” – someone who the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, would serve – to go to college. And then she found it – a partnership between the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the College Success Foundation (CSF) that helped low-income students regardless of citizenship status through the Achiever Scholarship.

Rocio was awarded the scholarship in 2004 – her junior year of high school – and the following year she applied for and was awarded a GEAR UP scholarship. She began her higher education pursuits at Heritage University in Toppenish, WA, and then transferred to the University of Washington (UW) two years later, where she ultimately studied sociology.

While she still struggled financially, Rocio made the most of her time at UW and worked as a CSF peer counselor and conference assistant during the summers, which provided her with professional experience helping low-income students attend college.

Rocio graduated from UW in 2010 and currently works for the Washington State University Upward Bound program as an academic coordinator. She and her fiancé also have plans to launch a business, I AM, where they will be able to help all students regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, religion, income, or legal status.

Rocio’s story was submitted by April Tovar, financial aid & scholarships manager at Washington State University in Vancouver, Washington.

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