For Luisanna Villa, high school was “a stepping stone for bigger and better things.” Her parents had not gone to college, but they instilled an “education first” attitude in their household. During her sophomore year, Luisanna had the realization that she needed to start working towards college. “I was able to go from a student who was just there occupying a chair to a student that was present, excelling in her classes and involved in extracurricular activities,” she recalls.

When a Let’s Get Ready representative visited her school, Luisanna identified a golden opportunity. “I knew that if I wanted to attend a good college I needed to do well on the SATs. I knew my parents couldn’t afford a private SAT tutor.”

The program’s peer-to-peer model, in which instruction and mentoring is provided by college students, was the perfect fit for Luisanna. She actually found it fun. “The sessions didn’t feel boring and tiresome–my Coaches made it very interactive,” she says. “They didn’t just speak at us. We had conversations about the topics.”

Beyond tutoring her for the SAT, Coaches guided Luisanna carefully through the process of selecting and applying to the right college, setting up informative college workshops. “As the first in your family to attend college, all you know is that you want a good one,” says Luisanna. “But there are questions you need to ask, research that needs to be done.”

Luisanna glowingly recollects her Coaches, whom she credits with making her feel comfortable, allowing her to share her thoughts, and inspiring a lasting confidence. “It was awesome that I had Heidi Schwartz who was my college mentor through Let’s Get Ready,” she offers. “In regards to questions I had, she was like my college mom.”

Happily for Luisanna, the sociology department at Fordham listed working with Let’s Get Ready as an opportunity to earn credit, which she jumped at immediately, eager to pay her experience forward. As a Coach, she took to the experience of instructing and mentoring her students with aplomb. Eventually she rose to the position of Success Coordinator, working with Fordham students in their first two years of college, providing helpful guidance, moral support, and connections to important resources to see them through graduation.

The experience mentoring her peers for Let’s Get Ready has been an added bonus for Luisanna, helping her identify her passion for education, steering her into a five-year track to get her master’s degree. “It’s more than a service,” she says, reiterating her invaluable connection to the other Coaches and students in the program. “I can definitely say a huge component of why I am where I am is due to Let’s Get Ready and its awesome staff.” She has set her sights on becoming a teacher after graduating.