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Proud to be a Trailblazer

By Meital Caplan
January 30, 2020

John Morales attended Lawrence High School in Massachusetts and was part of a cohort led by former Program Director and current OneGoal staffer Ainsley Robles. He’s currently a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts – Lowell.

There comes a day while you’re in high school that you realize that your real life is about to start. You become aware that your day won’t be planned for you, fewer people are going to be telling you what you should do and it’s on your shoulders to make something of yourself. That’s the day when I became really grateful to have OneGoal as a support net.

It’s subtle at first. You see that you and your OneGoal cohort have already completed your FAFSA while your peers are still only beginning to think about it. You don’t just celebrate earning a statewide academic scholarship, but are pushed by your Program Director to actually reach higher when applying to colleges now that the financial burden has been significantly lifted. And then you get the acceptance letter that changes how you view yourself and what you are capable of.

I had started a business with my friends in high school, designing clothes and signs. I always knew that I wanted to grow this business, but didn’t necessarily see as college as part of that journey. In researching what it would take, talking to local vendors about the process of making clothes, I saw that expanding a business is a marathon. Sometimes you have to chase it aggressively and sometimes you have to chase an opportunity that will put you in a better position to reach your dream in the future. Attending University of Massachusetts – Lowell is that opportunity for me.

This was one of the reach schools I talked about earlier. It felt out of my league and yet it ended up being the school closest to home, with the academic tracks I wanted, and that offered me the best financial aid. I started off majoring in entrepreneurship, but switched to studying international business and marketing because I’m bilingual, so why wouldn’t I take advantage of that?

And it’s weird to say, but for being someone that didn’t even think that college was for him, I’m thriving.

I’ve hit the typical college milestones, making new friends, passing my classes, but I’ve also pushed myself in ways I hadn’t expected. In high school I wrestled, but now I’ve joined an intramural swim team and run as a way to de-stress. I’m considering becoming a resident advisor. And I keep my eyes out for ways to continue working towards my business. I’m taking art classes on the side. I volunteer at OneGoal induction ceremonies to practice my public speaking and articulating my vision. I’m out here networking for myself and for my business.

College graduation is the only path for me now. I’m proud to be a trailblazer and be part of the first cohorts in Massachusetts, but I still need to graduate. More importantly, I want to graduate because I see my end goal. I see what it looks like when I don’t limit myself and the kind of life I can lead. It looks good.