This post was written by Esther Kimani, a recipient of the CUNY School of Professional Studies ACE Scholarship.

I first began pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree many years ago, back in Kenya, where I am originally from. Due to personal circumstances, I have had to start, stop, continue and discontinue several times. The thing that kept me going was that it was my late mother’s deepest wish that I continue with my education and obtain an advanced degree. It has been an arduous trip getting here.

Sometimes financial conditions have limited my participation and at other times the pressure of working full-time reduced the time needed to attend school. I constantly hoped and prayed for something to give so that I could complete my degree. Either I could obtain a full scholarship or I could work at a job that would allow for class attendance at very odd hours. The online classes given at the CUNY School of Professional Studies were an answer to half my prayers. It was a financial struggle attending the classes but through thick and thin I worked at it, sometimes taking one course, other times two.

Finally, I was awarded the ACE Scholarship just in time. I have been told that the last few semesters are usually the most difficult and are referred to as the breaking point. That is across the board for the Bachelor, Graduate and even the Post-Graduate degrees. Having struggled to get to the finish line, it was the ACE Scholarship that pushed me through. Not only was it financially essential, it gave me added momentum to get to the finish line and not to lose hope.

Even more pleasantly, it motivated me to obtain better grades than ever. The motivation to work at having really good grades was a surprising upshot of being an ACE Scholar. To keep the scholarship, my GPA had to be above 3.0. I work full-time at a job that, though rewarding, can be really stressful. Having the scholarship ensured that I worked harder not just to complete the assignments on time, but also to submit the kind of quality work expected from an ACE Scholar.

Another requirement of being an ACE Scholar is to be a mentor to new students. In my first semester as an ACE Scholar, I mentored a new student with whom I shared a class. He is one of those students who submit their work way ahead of time. Additionally, his work is always thoughtful and well-written. Many times I wished that he was my mentor instead. On the other hand, having him in my class was very beneficial to me as it motivated me even more to always submit my assignments in a timely manner (though rarely way ahead of time). Mentoring my mentee was a joyful experience and I can only hope that my future mentees will have the same disposition that he does.

Through the mentorship program, I have learned a lot, not only in how to be a mentor, but also how to be a good student.

Esther Kimani is a recipient of the CUNY SPS ACE Scholarship, a scholarship program designed to support high-achieving undergraduate students Achieve College Education (ACE). She will graduate from the Communications and Media degree program on May 31, 2017.