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Enter, Aspire, Succeed

Kelly Fournier '04's career story began the day she entered Keene State, went to the Aspire Office for help, and found herself on the path to success.

by Maria Dintino, Associate Director of Aspire

I met Kelly Fournier when she arrived on campus in the fall of 2000. Kelly is from a single-parent home in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the first in her family to attend college.

She initially came to Aspire for academic support in a particular history class. (The federally funded Aspire program, part of TRIO, provides academic support to KSC students who are first generation, meet income guidelines, and/or have a documented disability.)

From that first appointment on, Kelly latched on to Aspire's services and turned to me as her educational counselor. Being first generation, Kelly didn't have anyone at home who could help with questions and concerns about her college experience. Aspire was able to answer these questions, problem-solve with Kelly around concerns, and assist her in mapping out her educational plan.

Kelly looks back on her four years here and says, "The Aspire program allowed me to structure my journey to graduation day. Without such guidance, I am not certain which direction I would have turned."

By her junior and senior year, this shy first-generation student had become a leader and mentor to others. Her self-esteem and confidence had grown exponentially.

From the start, Kelly was able to articulate her undergraduate plans: to earn a psychology degree, along with a concentration in nutrition. Her ideal career goal was to work with adolescents with eating disorders.

Kelly met with me often for guidance and support, and to receive reinforcement that she was on the right track. And she was! Soon Kelly was hired as a tutor for our program, working with other students in psychology classes she had already taken, and then she became a peer advisor, assisting first-year undecided students in course selection and exploring majors. By her junior and senior year, this shy first-generation student had become a leader and mentor to others. Her self-esteem and confidence had grown exponentially.

When I got in touch with Kelly early this year to see how she was doing, she reported that she was working as an outpatient licensed certified social worker (LCSW) at Boston Medical Center, providing therapeutic services to those struggling with eating disorders. She had accomplished the very goal she set for herself.

After graduating from Keene in 2004, Kelly attended UNH to earn her master's degree in social work. She is currently enrolled in a certificate program at Plymouth State University to be certified as an eating disorder specialist. Eventually Kelly would like to establish a private practice back in her hometown on the seacoast.

I had called Kelly for another reason as well. I asked her to join our New Hampshire TRIO team at the annual Policy Seminar in Washington, D.C., in March, and she eagerly agreed. It would be her first trip to Washington and her first glimpse into how Washington works. It was the first time we brought an Aspire alumna with us. "As someone who doesn't have a vast knowledge of policy and politics, I found myself learning an immense amount of information regarding policy and funding for these vital programs," Kelly said.

She was able to tell our state representatives how Aspire contributed to her success as a college student and assisted her in becoming the confident professional she is today. Kelly was also able to see how programs like Aspire are a part of a much larger educational mission to increase educational opportunity to thousands and thousands of low-income and first-generation students in the United States.

We in Aspire are proud of Kelly and all the other students we have had the opportunity to serve over the past 35 years. As an educational counselor, I truly believe there is no greater mission than to help students like Kelly make their dreams come true.

As Kelly says, "The Aspire program really granted me the opportunity to consider my dreams and voice my desires, ultimately allowing me to follow my heart when I thought about my future."