As a Let’s Get Ready Access Coach in Lynn, Massachusetts, Yvane Ngassa serves as a role model and mentor for her peers as she instructs them on the SAT. Now a pre-med student at Tufts University, she has overcome major challenges to secure her seat in the classroom, and is showing high school juniors and seniors how they can do the same.
When she was seven years-old, Yvane emigrated from Cameroon with her parents and sister to Melrose, Massachusetts. “I went to secondary school in a wealthy town in which a majority of my classmates had parents who had attended college and were able to pay for extra tutoring,” she explains. “With two immigrant parents struggling to pay for rent, utilities, and feeding our family, I did not have the funds for tutoring, nor parental guidance about college.”
She heard about Let’s Get Ready from her older sister’s friend, seeing it as an opportunity to take charge of her future. A nonprofit based in Manhattan, Let’s Get Ready connects students from low-income backgrounds, most of whom are the first in their family to pursue a post-secondary degree, with college student mentors. The mentors, or “Coaches”, provide SAT instruction and guidance on the college application process, as well as continued support through graduation.
“Before I signed up for Let’s Get Ready, I honestly did not know the requirements to apply for college except the standardized tests,” Yvane explains. “Let’s Get Ready clarified the difference between the SAT and ACT. They motivated me to identify safety, target, and reach schools, and enlightened me on the overwhelming application process.”
Yvane’s Let’s Get Ready Access Coaches helped her set up an account on the College Board website and navigate its features, streamlining the process of finding and applying to well-matched schools. The organization also arranged campus visits for Yvane and supported her as she wrote her personal essay.
“My SAT score increased by about 300 points, and practicing with Let’s Get Ready also helped me in my high school classes,” says Yvane. “I became more confident in my math skills and more knowledgeable about grammar rules, which improved my performance in my AP language class. Since English is my second language, it was really helpful to work with my Coaches on fundamental English rules that I may have forgotten, or never had the chance to learn.”
With an improved test score and a comprehensive understanding of the higher education landscape, Yvane was poised for a successful college journey. “I thought after I finished Let’s Get Ready’s College Access Program in the spring, I would be done with Let’s Get Ready. I was wrong!” she says. Maureen, her Transition Coach in the College Success Program, aided in her successful application to Tufts and sent her regular reminders to stay on top of her paperwork. They remain in close contact.
The program staff at Let’s Get Ready’s Boston offices worked with Yvane’s family to help ensure a smooth transition to Tufts. “They welcomed my father and me to their Boston office and sat down with us for hours until we completed my Free Application for Federal Financial Aid (FAFSA) and other financial documents,” she recalls. “It was a HUGE help to my father even though he had already gone through the same process with my sister, a year before.”
Later, when Let’s Get Ready offered Yvane the opportunity to become an Access Coach to mentor high school students like herself, she jumped at the opportunity. “I coach math on Monday nights and I’m honestly loving it,” she reports. “I’m able to help students that are in a similar situation as I once was, while reviewing math and preparing myself for college as well.”
Yvane Ngassa embodies the work ethic and passion for learning that colleges look for when admitting students. She is currently focused on her undergrad studies, but she is thinking about going to medical school after graduating Tufts and, perhaps, taking a gap year in Spain. The work she is putting into bettering society is a testimony to leadership by example.