“Wallin is the reason I am going to college. When I found out I got into the program, I could not speak. It was like my life changed in an instant.”
At 22, Marlene Velasco is thoughtful, driven, and incredibly hard-working. Growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico, she dreamed of education. “My family could not afford to send me to college, but they gave me all the love and support I needed—the things that truly matter”. From an early age, Marlene worked to help support her family.
When Marlene was 18, her dreams of education intact, she seized an opportunity to immigrate to the United States. Marlene and her husband settled in Minneapolis when she was 18.
New son in tow, Marlene enrolled at Wellstone International High School. She caught up quickly. After homework, she practiced English into the night. Her teachers took notice of her talent and ambition. They suggested she try two courses through Minneapolis College’s D3 program. There, she discovered a love for numbers, accounting in particular.
“I was surprised to be elected valedictorian at my high school. Even so, I had no idea how to pay for college. My plan was not to go. It just was not possible, financially.” That is when Marlene’s high school counselor introduced her to Wallin Education Partners’ 2-year Program.
She applied and was accepted. Wallin would provide critical financial support for Marlene to continue her studies at Minneapolis College, as well as a 1-1 advising relationship to support Marlene throughout her journey at school.
“My Wallin advisor is Samara. Our relationship means so much to me. I talk to her all the time. I can ask her anything. She also speaks Spanish, which really helps. She understands what it is like for me.” Over the past year, Marlene has been juggling the demands of a full-time course load, a child at home, and a part-time job—all in the face of a global pandemic.
“Balancing everything right now is challenging, but I see a real career ahead of me. I am the first woman in my family to attend college. Whenever things get hard, I think of my mother, Ofelia Gomez. She is my motivation. This is all for her.” After graduating, Marlene wants to give back by applying her talents in the government sector. Her long term goal is to work for the IRS.
“I think back to growing up in Oaxaca and my dream of education. If I could, I would tell my childhood self to never give up. I would say that there will be challenges, but that they will not last forever. I would remind myself that I am strong, and as long as I stay focused, there will be people here to support me along the way.”
We at Wallin Education Partners are honored to be counted among those people who are supporting Marlene on her path to degree completion.
We breathe a bit easier today because of the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. For all of us, especially our communities of color, “I can’t breathe” will forever remind us of the terrible pain and violence that racism creates. Much, much more is needed to change the path we are on. Wallin Education Partners will continue to fight racism and work towards real progress. We do this every day through a program of comprehensive support of underrepresented college students. We reaffirm our unwavering commitment to our scholars, our community and equity in our society. We have years of work ahead of us. Most important, we acknowledge the pain of our African American community and stand in solidarity and fellowship with them.
Susan Basil King
President and CEO
Posted on April 20, 2021
The events of the past year have reminded us of what African Americans know too well; that too often black lives are not treated with the dignity and respect accorded to white lives. Systemic racism is the root cause of much of the problems we face, and we are saddened and angered at events in our community and across our country that reveal how much more is needed to create a just and peaceful society. We must, however, do more that express our feelings of sadness and anger.
We must work with purpose to identify and root out conscious and unconscious bias and to create a system of higher education where all are truly equal. Where the cost of college no longer prohibits many from earning a college degree. Where comprehensive support for college students is widely and evenly available and responsive to their needs. We must recommit to the systemic change needed to make higher education accessible and equitable.
There is nothing easy about any of this. It will be challenging, uncomfortable and demand difficult conversations and decisions. We must recognize and condemn racism when we see it in our daily lives. At Wallin Education Partners it is a time for solidarity and fellowship with all communities of color, particularly with African Americans. In this challenging time, I believe that our commitment to equity in education, to our community partners, to each other and most important to our scholars can serve as a compass to guide our way.
Susan Basil King
President and CEO
Posted on April 19, 2021