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Imani’s Story

“If you ask anyone in my circle, I have always been driven. I have been called “sickly independent.” Whenever I do ask for help, it’s because I REALLY need it!” That is what JIT participant Imani Smith shared when asked about her motivation.

She first heard about JIT through the ACE Scholars Service at Cal State San Marcos. Imani was drawn to our services because she needed support obtaining a driver’s license and resources for college, so she immediately signed up to participate in Changing Lanes and College Bound. After JIT provided several driving lessons, she took the driving test and passed on her second attempt. Imani continues to share her motivational drive with coaches and participants in Financial Fitness, Rise to Resilience, Pathways to Financial Power, and Master Your Dream.

Imani remembers her childhood being tumultuous and disrupted. “My mom lost custody of me when I was a baby,” Imani shares as she describes her upbringing, “I grew up and was raised by other family members. I stayed with my grandmother till age three and then moved in with my great aunt who gained kinship care. I stayed with her up until the age of 14”, but unfortunately, she was abusive. She stayed at school after hours because she didn’t want to return to her aunt’s house. Imani knew she was destined for something great, so at 18, she moved to San Diego to attend Cal State San Marcos, where she graduated, and will soon begin graduate school at Hampton University in Virginia.

Imani recently had an epiphany when she learned that moving expenses could quickly add up and make a massive dent in your budget. “This is the biggest responsibility I have encountered. I learned about needing renters’ insurance, internet, and all the expenses related to moving”, Imani shares. There were so many different expenses that Imani had not accounted for, including the rental of a dolly to tow her car, which cost $700. Thanks to JIT, her GoFundMe, and the YMCA, she raised over $6,000 to help with rental and moving costs. She has secured two months’ rent and is actively looking for a job to stay on top of her finances and rent.

Despite all the obstacles thrown her way, Imani is driven to pursue her dreams of becoming an OBGYN. She is also taking a skincare formulation course and started her own skincare business focused on cosmetics.

Imani has participated since 2017 and has been involved in eight different JIT services. She says, “when staff reach out and let me know about the services, it makes me feel that there is someone who actually cares about me.” She keeps in touch with her Career Horizons for Young Women cohort and coach, Christine. “At first, I didn’t understand the concept of having a coach, but now I see the value they offer.” She looks forward to staying in touch with her coaches and peers from Virginia and staying connected to our community. Thanks to her experience with Just in Time, Imani has learned what financial freedom means and how far her drive can take her. And though she is moving across the country, we will be cheering for her continued success through medical school and beyond.

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“My College Bound experience was more than I could’ve asked for! I’, so grateful to have met my coaches and to feel believed in! I’m READY TO OVERCOME any obstacle to get my degree”
Azucena Wells, right, pictured with her College Bound coach Suzy Freund, left.

“College Bound was a wonderful experience! Connecting with new people, with the gorgeous waves in the back of our speakers, was an event I’ll never forget! The experience to have the celebration of being a Master Your Dream recipient started to make my grad school experience more real for me. I realize now that I am going into the next step in my life, I am having the support I need and want. Even when I have trouble asking for help, even with small things, people are watching out for me and ready to help whenever they can.”

This was one of many messages shared by College Bound participants on the JIT Network in the afterglow of College Bound’s second day. New students, new college graduates, volunteer coaches and JT alumni gathered on a bright Saturday morning for inspiration and celebration of our community of possibilities and promises fulfilled.

Students starting their post-secondary journey could envision their future success in the powerful presence of 2007 JIT College Bound participants who attended as living proof of promises and possibilities since turned into academic degrees and careers aligned with purpose.

If you weren’t there, you can still get a feel for the day by joining the JIT Network and connecting to all the life changing choices made possible by a real, reliable and responsive community of support. I’ll be looking for you.

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