Michelle Marchante/News Director
Pursuing a degree can be complicated and expensive, but students have to “keep pushing on,” a Worlds Ahead graduate said.
Brahim Almarales, 22, a recent graduate with a dual degree in History and Philosophy, is the first in his family to get higher education and was recognized at his graduation ceremony for being “Worlds Ahead” in his journey to education.
A Bright Futures recipient, Almarales graduated with the distinction of Magna Cum Laude, but the road to graduation wasn’t always easy for him.
Through Bright Futures and the American Dream scholarship, he had a full-ride to Miami-Dade College for his first two years, he said, but that all changed when he transferred to FIU.
Even though he still had his Bright Futures, it wasn’t enough to cover his expenses.
“I love spending money, but at the same time I know the importance of saving it and I didn’t know I was going to be hit by such a big bill when I got to FIU,” Almarales said. “But, thankfully I had enough money to help me out at the beginning and then I kept working to continue paying it until the end.”
Working since the age of 14, he has never been unemployed or fired, he said, so when he saw that he needed money to finish his education, he didn’t hesitate to step up to the plate.
Instead of taking out a loan and playing the bank’s “game,” he chose to pay out of pocket, even if that meant having to work two full-time jobs and not sleeping every day.
“It boiled down to: I need to work more,” Almarales said.
Besides working as a substitute teacher by day and a hotel audit manager by night, Almarales was also supporting his grandmother and was a full-time student, but this didn’t stop him from being involved in the community, he said.
During his time at FIU, Almarales was a member of the history honor society, Phi Alpha Theta, and the philosophy honor society, Phi Sigma Tau, as well as their corresponding clubs. Outside of school, he was a member of DeMolay, a youth group within Masonry and did 600 community service hours.
But, the last semester he said, was definitely the hardest part of his “financial headache.”
“It was that moving moment when you’ve made it to the end, you’re in the final stretch and you run out of money,” Almarales said. “This is the moment when you’re out, that’s it…but, thankfully, I itched through it.”
Almarales is honored to have been named a Worlds Ahead graduate and is extremely grateful for the support his mother, grandmother, girlfriend and his 8 siblings gave him. His professors, he said, also played a huge role.
“I had never before experienced something where many of them approached me, asking me if I needed help going to the next level,” Almarales said. “That was big too because I felt like I didn’t have to seek out help, they saw my potential and they came to me.”
In the writing portion of the GRE, a test that is required for grad school admission, Almarales received a 5.5—the second highest possible score—placing him in the 98th percentile, he said, and once August arrives, he will be back at FIU, working on his master’s degree so he can become a college professor.
The best part, he said, is that his financial troubles are now over.
“That’s all behind me now thanks to FIU for giving me the assistantship,” he said.
The assistantship, he said, will give him stipends and tuition waivers to cover his grad school costs and in return, he will be working in a role similar to that of a teaching assistant.
This opportunity, he said, will also give him more time for his family, particularly his younger brother, Michael, and his younger sister, Marien.
“Michael is in high school and Marien’s in middle school, so now is when I should give them feedback and help them,” Almarales said.
And when it comes to higher education, every student, he said, particularly those planning on attending graduate school, should find a way to stand out from the crowd, whether it’s through school or some other outlet, but most importantly, he said, they should make sure they’re doing it for themselves.
“It’s one of those things where you should leave even the idea of ‘what it means to your family’ behind because this degree is for you,” he said. “It’s to better your life and their life through association by the trickle affect, but you’re not coming here to make someone proud or to make someone else money.
You’re coming here to advance yourself, to learn more things, to become all that you can become,” he said. “Just keep pushing on because it will definitely pay off in the end.”