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On Nov. 15, five local college students appeared before an audience at the University of Washington to share their journeys of achieving college access despite significant challenges and set-backs. “Storytellers: How I Got into College” was hosted as part of the UW Dream Project’s Admissions Workshop Weekend, an annual event that brings dozens of high-school students from throughout King County to UW for assistance completing their college applications.

Go here for a written recap and photos from the evening’s program. Videos of each storyteller are posted below.

Jenée Myers Twitchell, director of the Dream Project, kicked off the event by sharing the story of her own upbringing in Yakima. “My story is filled with addicts,” she said. “Pretty much everybody in my family had gone through or needed to go through rehab.”

Her own struggles inspired her to begin working with local youth and start the Dream Project.

“I didn’t want it be about luck. I didn’t want getting to college to be about, ‘I just hope I meet the right person,'” she said.

Teena Thach, a senior at Western Washington University, talked about the transition from growing up in Tacoma to starting school in Bellingham. At first, she struggled to find a community of fellow students she could relate to.

“I wanted to see people who look like me, someone who can understand the struggle, what it’s like to be on financial aid and have loans for days and be in debt, you know?” she said. “I found that community at the ethnic student center … that was the biggest reason why I stayed at Western, why I stayed at the university.”

For David Alvarez, a junior transfer student at UW, succeeding in higher education was about finding a place to fit in through clubs and student leadership. “Find ways to make a really, really large community smaller,” he advised students

Daisy Morado-Sanchez talked about losing her father at a young age and having to translate for her mother while her father was ill and after he passed away. During that time, she said, doctors who were treating her father reached out to her, offering to give her money to buy food from a vending machine. Today, she is a sophomore at UW intending to eventually apply to medical school. “That’s really what inspired me to want to be a doctor, just having that personal interaction with them, and also seeing what they did for so many patients.”

Lucas Nydam closed out the evening with a bit of original poetry, and by offering this advice to high-school students: “Just remember, you are in charge of your own destiny.”