A Husky Promise obligation: Doing your best

Hesbeyda Villafana / Marc Studer photo

By Douglas Esser
As a Husky Promise student, Hesbeyda Villafana is on her way to earning a bachelor’s degree in American and ethnic studies next year — debt free. But she does feels she still owes something: an obligation to do her best.

In her first year at the University of Washington Bothell, Villafana said she “didn’t do that great,” earning a 2.9 GPA. She went home that summer and thought about it. “I was really anxious to come back because I wanted to do better.”

The next quarter she raised her GPA over 3.0. She continued to raise the grade point average every quarter and in the fall of this school year hit a 4.0.

“Being part of Husky Promise made me feel like I needed to work hard, because I’m thankful to be part of this and to receive this financial aid,” Villafana said.

Villafana grew up in Sunnsyside in eastern Washington where her mother, a single parent, works in the agriculture industry, picking fruit. In the summers Villafana worked in fruit-packing warehouses. In high school, she knew she wanted to attend the University of Washington, although no one else in her family had left the Yakima Valley for higher education.

“I never really focused on the financial part because I was so determined to come here regardless,” Villafana said. “I just knew it would work out somehow.”

When the financial aid letter came in the mail, Villafana was relieved to find she was fully covered by a federal Pell grant, Husky Promise and another state grant program called College Bound. Villafana also works as a proctor in the disabilities resource center, helping students who need accommodations. She sees it as good experience for a possible career as a counselor or administrator in public schools or higher education.

Villafana recalls friends from high school, who were put off at the expense of college or the cost of living in the Seattle area and chose a community college closer to home. As a first-generation, four-year college student, Villafana “had to figure these things out on my own.”

But she now has the experience to advise a younger brother: Get good grades, participate in activities, and, if you’re determined, there’s help.

“Because of Husky Promise, I am here,” she said.

The Husky Promise is the guarantee that qualified students will not be denied a University of Washington bachelor’s degree because of the cost.

In the 10 years since the program began, about 39,000 students have had their tuition covered. In the 2016-17 school year, nearly 10,000 students attended the UW thanks to Husky Promise, about 1,600 at the UW Bothell campus. This year there are 1,535 Husky Promise students at UW Bothell, according to the Office of Financial Aid.

The Husky Promise covers the full tuition and standard fees for Washington state students who are admitted to the University and qualify. Tuition is covered first by federal and state grants, such as the Pell Grant or State Need Grant. The UW may add institutional grants or scholarships. Additional grant, scholarship, work-study and loan funds are available to help with other costs, such as books, room and board.

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