Meet Sheyla

When she immigrated to the United States from Cuba, Sheyla (‘22) realized that the path to higher education she was familiar with in Cuba wouldn’t be the same in her new country.

Coming from a first-generation, immigrant family, Sheyla’s experiences in life solidified the importance of a good education early on. But the struggle for her came from identifying what a good education meant. “For me, the journey was figuring what that meant, like what is a good education, what is the education I need to attain?” 

Sheyla found that attending university was the best way for her to accomplish her goal. However, she lacked knowledge about the college application process.  “I was just very stressed and unaware of this process. So what made me want to join Reality Changers was wanting that support.”

Sheyla was determined to not be left behind, “Pursuing higher education,” she shares, “[has] been super important to my parents and me.”

“I think [what] Reality Changers did was provide that knowledge. And the thing about that is: when you know more about the process, you get to feel more confident about what you are doing.” She was shown examples of past successful students, helping her overcome the fear that she wasn’t a qualified candidate. This concern, which many first-gen students experience, is often called ‘imposter syndrome.’

Alongside Reality Changers staff, Sheyla worked to solidify her writing and storytelling skills to make her a stellar university applicant. She initially struggled with the vulnerability that comes with writing college application essays. Reflecting on this, Sheyla commented, “I was really afraid to really just tell my story.” Yet, she wanted to give herself a chance to succeed and prove to herself, and others, that the hard work she had put into academics would pay off. 

The writing of her essay went beyond the grammar and making a story sound good. Sheyla and her achievement coach found a story that spoke to Sheyla’s experiences. “Reality Changers is just wonderful because they get to know you as an individual,” she shares. Initially, she thought she didn’t have a unique story to write, but with the assistance of Reality Changers staff, Sheyla realized that “there is something special in all of our stories.”

Her experiences with Reality Changers extend beyond writing personal statements, Sheyla recalls learning from staff the importance of functioning independently and prioritizing oneself in making important decisions regarding what schools to attend. At Reality Changers, she also had the chance to network and take advantage of opportunities available to her.

Sheyla is now in her second year at Yale University, studying the humanities and immersing herself in various internships and clubs. In one of these internships, Sheyla reports on events in Cuba and the U.S. Cuba relations, something she expressed is “very important [to me].” In the future, she plans to attend law school, and advocate for policies that support Cuba and her community.

Sheyla’s journey doesn’t end with her. With the support she received from Reality Changers, she has been able to help other students as well. The donations from donors, she says, have allowed her to help others who help others; creating a ripple effect of giving. “Supporters are giving students like me a chance and I think it’s important because we are the future.”



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