Lighting the Way

Edit: Candice’s story was originally published in 2015. We updated it to include her post-graduation plans and continued support from College Bound.


Growing up, Candice’s mom had a dream for her daughter: that she would attend college and build a better future for herself. But she knew she couldn’t do it alone.

Candice’s mother hadn’t attended college and didn’t have the experience or knowledge to help Candice navigate her college career. The admissions process, financial aid, choosing a major…  no one in their family had any experience with these things.

When Candice’s mom heard about United Way supported College Bound, which helps youth from economically disadvantaged backgrounds achieve their bachelor’s degrees and enter successful careers, she knew it would be the perfect resource to bridge the gap.

Candice began attending College Bound her sophomore year of high school. Now, more than six years later, Candice has not only made it to college, but she’s also earned her degree in social work from University of Missouri – St. Louis and is applying for grad school, her nonprofit certification and her first professional job.

“That was my biggest accomplishment: walking across the stage, shaking the chancellor’s hand and receiving my diploma,” Candice recalls. “To have those people who supported me along the way all there, celebrating that I accomplished this big milestone, not only for me but for my family, was very rewarding and humbling.”

The Journey to Graduation

College Bound was there for Candice every step of the way, helping her navigate ACT test prep, tutoring, financial planning, college tours and admissions. Throughout college, they were there to answer questions and lift her up when she felt stressed or overwhelmed.

“College Bound has always been the resource I can go to,” Candice says. “Having them teach us the knowledge we need to maneuver the classroom, resumes, knowing how to communicate with professors… Those things really helped get me through the last four years. They really pushed me: ‘You can do this. No matter what, stick to it.’”

Now that she’s graduated, Candice still receives support from College Bound’s post-collegiate program. Post-Collegiate Transition Manager Ashley Cook meets with Candice to improve her resume, fill out job applications and prepare for interviews.

And Beyond

College Bound also hosts networking events and mock interviews to help prepare participants to enter the workforce. Helping students understand everything involved in finding a rewarding career is key to a successful transition, Cook says.

“When participants first graduate, they’re used to college life, where someone tells them when things are due and what their schedule looks like each day. Now, they have more control over their decisions and actions and how that plays a role in how successful they are,” Cook says. “We’re traditionally told, ‘Go to college. You’ll get a good career with your degree.’ But that piece in the middle between getting your degree and getting into your career is so vital, and it’s the least talked about component of all.”

Armed with new resources and confidence, Candice wants to combine her deep desire to bring change to her community and her love of music by starting her own nonprofit providing music therapy to local youth. It’s her way of giving back for all the support College Bound has given her.

“College Bound has always had a light bulb to turn on when you don’t know the way—an idea or a resource to help,” Candice says. “They are always lighting the way when it seems like there’s no way.”


About College Bound
College Bound provides promising students from under-resourced backgrounds with the academic enrichment, social support and life skills needed to succeed in college and their careers. College Bound has been a United Way funded agency since 2014.

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James Taylor
James Taylor