Emily Lang

The road to receiving an education has led Emily Lang on a long and arduous journey.   Her difficulty started in the sixth grade, when she transitioned from a private school to a public school. 

“I had a very hard time fitting in there,” Emily said.  “I began cutting classes and using drugs. Education always seemed to be just out of my grasp.”

Emily obtained a GED at the age of twenty, when she was also pregnant with her first daughter.  She worked a series of dead end jobs, which did not pay enough to support her and her daughter, so she was also forced to obtain public assistance.  She later married and grew her family.  But, when her husband's business failed at the beginning of the economic crash in 2007, their marriage did not withstand the hardships.

It was then that Emily attempted college for the first time.  But, she found it too difficult to attend all of her classes and care for her four children.  It took a couple more years for her to realize just how important it was for her to try again.    

“When I finally began to put my life back together, I found myself in a tough situation,” Emily said.  “I had four children and no skills.  The only job I could get was scrubbing bathrooms and cooking in a drug treatment facility, and I still wasn’t earning enough money to support myself and my children.” 

She eventually enrolled in a full load of classes at Modesto Junior College, and later transferred to Columbia College to complete her degree.  In the spring of 2015, she will graduate from Columbia College with an associate degree in liberal studies.  And, once she completes just one more class during the summer 2015 session, she’ll also receive her Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) degree in communications studies. 

“When I first started attending classes, I often felt like the dumbest person in the room,” Emily said.  “However, I slowly learned that I was capable and I was succeeding.  Just recently, my children and family saw me graduate.  They saw me complete something significant for the first time.  It was one of the proudest moments of my entire life.”

While working on her associate degree, Emily received the Board of Governor’s (BOG) Fee Waiver, Pell Grant, Cal Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) and scholarships.  She also received some assistance from special programs, including EOPS, TRIO and CalWORKs. 

Next up for Emily?  She hopes to attend California State University, Stanislaus, to earn her bachelor’s degree.  Her ultimate goal is to obtain a master’s degree. 

“I never fully believed that I could attain my educational goals until recently,” Emily said.  “Financial aid has made education a viable option for me.  I never could have attended school, afforded to live, and put food on my family’s table without the assistance of financial aid and special programs.” 

For Emily, receiving financial aid was a life-saver.  But, she also had to learn the importance of budgeting so she could successfully make it through each semester.  Because of that, she encourages all students to attend a budgeting workshop – and, some colleges offer them for free. 

“Do not count yourself out,” Emily said.  “There is financial aid available.  Be sure to submit the FAFSA, and work with your school to help you get everything in order.  Look for special programs such as EOPS, TRIO and CalWORKs, which can assist with purchasing books or locating resources in your community.  And, be sure to apply for scholarships – it takes a little time, but why would you pass up an opportunity to receive free money?  There are people in your community that want to help you in your educational career, so let them.”