Tough times are more challenging for youth who don’t have family who can help. The crises our nation has experienced in 2020 could devastate a student’s plans for the future. But Educational Student Tours (EST) student Ariana Gokbas is surviving and thriving‚—because the nonprofit and its supporters have been there for her.
“We treat our students like family, and we do whatever it takes to help them realize their dream of earning a university degree,” said EST Executive Director Gregory Delahoussaye. “We’re like those lovable and dependable aunties, uncles, and grandparents who have your back through the good times and the bad.”
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gokbas knew about fear, uncertainty, and isolation. Her mother was addicted to drugs and life was a chaotic, prolonged fight to survive. At age 13, Gokbas was placed in foster care, and a few years later her mom passed away.
After that great loss, she began to see college as a necessity. A social worker recommended Gokbas to the EST College Access Program. As she walked the grounds of Johnson C. Smith University during an EST tour in North Carolina, she realized that HBCU graduated 70 percent of its most recent foster youth cohort, and a new world opened up to her. Gokbas knew she wanted to attend college.
“EST let me know I will have somewhere to go,” she recalls. With help from EST, Gokbas received college application, financial aid, and scholarship support, winning over $60,000 in scholarships. When her computer broke down in the middle of the college application season, EST purchased another one for her. She also received a “dorm room in a box” gift.
Today, Gokbas is a student at San Diego State University only because Johnson C. Smith is fully online this year due to the pandemic. She is pursuing her goal of becoming an English teacher.
“One of the greatest lessons 2020 has taught us all is the importance of compassion for each other, especially the neediest among us,” said Delahoussaye. Our students are smart, determined, resilient, and hardworking. They will earn their degrees and will pay it forward.”