Talent Search College Advisor Bintou Sankareh on what motivates her to do this work


Why do I work in this field? As a first-generation college student, I struggled in navigating the college process. My parents do not know the American education system, and the experience gave me an understanding of how it feels to be helpless. After graduating college in 2017, I landed my first college advising job. I fell in love with the work, and I have helped so many incredible students navigate the complex system. Now at University Settlement, I get to wake up every day to fulfill my calling. Low-income/ first-generation college students are the future of this country. I have to help their dreams come true and help them break the cycles of generational poverty. 

I’ve been working for University Settlement since 2019, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many incredible students, with so many talents. One student, in particular, let’s call her Anaya. She was so intelligent and unique; she knew what she wanted. I met with her weekly, and her goal was to go away for college. She reminded me so much of my background. Her parents are immigrants, and they did not understand the purpose of going away. Through perseverance, hard work, and dedication, she was able to convince her parents, and now she attends George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.

2020 was a challenging year for adults, let alone teenagers. In the middle of the pandemic, I worked with incredible students who did not let the pandemic affect their prosperity. I feel like I could write about all of my students, but then I would be writing a novel. To keep it short and simple, let me talk about two more students  – call them Beatriz and Christina.  Beatriz was just so incredible; she was smart, organized and she had a part-time job to help herself financially. She had such a busy schedule, but yet she maintained a high GPA. NYU and Macaulay Honors College (Lehman) were her top choices. Despite her busy schedule, she met with me weekly to review her progress. Through hard work and dedication, she got accepted to both schools. NYU was her dream college, and she is now at NYU studying and getting closer to her dream.

Christina was also all of the above. She had her own business while maintaining good grades. She was independent and knew what she wanted to do. She is now at Alfred State College doing amazing work. She recently wrote to me to say:

Your help during the college application process in the midst of a pandemic was so greatly appreciated… thank you for not giving up on me, and meeting with me when you had the chance!”

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