First Generation Student Inspired by Mentorship

Student Sponsor Program motivates Krystal Diaz ’16 to attend Manhattan College.

Krystal Diaz ’16 has lived in the Bronx for most of her life but never envisioned herself staying here for college. However, when she visited Manhattan College for the first time to support her sister in a cheerleading competition last year, she fell in love with the campus and instantly changed her mind.

Krystal DiazOriginally from the Dominican Republic, she moved to the Bronx before her third birthday. In spite of the move, Diaz’s Spanish heritage has stayed with her through her childhood and will continue as she begins her college years.

Starting as a School of Arts student, Diaz plans to incorporate her Spanish skills into a future profession.

As she transitions into her freshman year, Diaz will also continue to seek major and career advice from the one person she credits her high school success to: her mentor, Maggie Howell.

“Since my parents didn’t know much about the college process, Maggie guided me through the whole process,” she says.

Diaz first met Howell as a freshman in high school at Saint Raymond Academy for Girls as part of the Student Sponsor Partners (SSP) program.

SSP was started to help combat the high school dropout crisis in New York City to offer low-income students the opportunity to receive a college-preparatory education in high school. The program also provides a mentor for each student, and sponsors 90 percent of the students’ tuition at a private school.

“Krystal’s dedication to her schoolwork and her positive attitude allowed her to be extremely receptive to my advice and guidance,” says Howell, who works in private wealth management for Morgan Stanley. “She always found a way to make time to meet with me even when she was extremely busy with schoolwork and activities.”

Krystal’s dedication to her schoolwork and her positive attitude allowed her to be extremely receptive to my advice and guidance.
—Maggie Howell

With Howell by her side all four years, Diaz was committed to her studies while applying for college. She managed to find time to participate as a twirler in the school’s band, be an active member of the Spanish Club, and volunteer at church and alumni events.

Through SSP, she also attended a few high school events sponsored by Morgan Stanley, which further motivated her to start applying to college.

This past spring, Diaz graduated at the top of her class with first honors, and her mentor Howell was once again by her side, cheering from the audience.

With the new semester beginning, Diaz looks forward to getting involved in campus life and of course, her classes.

“My biggest goal for this year is to keep my grades up and to meet new people because I love meeting new people,” she adds.

She also looks forward to learning more about the College’s international relations major, and, perhaps, incorporating it into a plan to return to the Dominican Republic and help others by working for the United Nations.