Empowering Youth Through Education

Meshach Puerto

Growing up in an economically challenged Los Angeles neighborhood with few positive role models, Meshach knew few adults who had earned college degrees.

College was uncharted territory. Not only did it seem financially out of reach, it could take him away from his mother and younger sister. Getting a job to help support the family seemed the most likely path after high school.

When Meshach began attending Hamilton High School, the Fulfillment Fund began offering classroom instruction about the long-term benefits of college, financial aid opportunities, and the college application process. Meshach watched as older peers in the Fulfillment Fund "stepped up to the plate" and began to apply to colleges, receive financial aid, and successfully transition to college.

The experience helped him envision himself as a college student, and it motivated him to follow in his peers’ footsteps, he says. During 11th grade, he began meeting regularly with Fulfillment Fund college counselors, who guided him to apply to a variety of colleges, including Marymount California University, a campus in Palos Verdes he had never heard of even though it was less than 15 miles from his home.

One day in the spring of his senior year he received a life-changing phone call from a college counselor: Through a partnership with the Fulfillment Fund, Meshach had been awarded a full-ride scholarship to Marymount that would cover all of his expenses for his entire undergraduate career. No longer would he or his mother have to worry about finances for college. Reflecting on that day, he says, "I just had so much excitement, I wanted to do a back flip. It meant that I was going to go to college. It meant that I was going to be able to go to college."

Meshach enrolled at Marymount in the fall of 2011, and four years later, graduated with a bachelor's degree in psychology. Today, Meshach is working as a student admissions officer at Marymount, helping other students transition successfully to college life. His new professional role is an extension of something he did throughout his time as a student--being actively involved on campus and helping peers as much as possible. "Some people don't get to the step I got to," he says.

Meshach is also a role model to his younger sister, 14-year-old Maliyah, a 9th grader who has watched his experience at college with interest. "She's following in my footsteps," he says. "I always tell her that she's a lot smarter than me. She knows so much, I'm really excited to see how things work out for her."

"I would describe the Fulfillment Fund as a helping hand. Sometimes when you are put in an environment where I grew up, you kind of give up on certain things. You don't reach your full potential. Being involved with the Fulfillment Fund was definitely a blessing. They showed me the path so I didn't have to figure out everything for myself. They made me want to pursue a degree and become a college student. Now, looking back, I wouldn't be in the position I am now if it wasn't for this program."

When you give to the Fulfillment Fund, you’re making a targeted investment in the future of our community. To make a donation today to support students like Meshach, visit www.fulfillment.org/donate.