Q&A: The Power of Financial Aid Awareness 

How Anayeli García Silva Turned Her Challenges into a Mission to Help Others Navigate Educational Opportunities 

In 2007, Anayeli García Silva graduated with honors from Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. She had moved to the United States at the age of 11, and her dedication and hard work led to her acceptance at UC Berkeley. Despite her impressive academic achievements, García faced significant challenges due to her undocumented status. Lacking a social security number, Anayeli struggled to secure financial support for her college education. Although she qualified as an AB540 student—a designation in California that allows certain undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public colleges and universities—the cost of tuition remained prohibitively expensive for her family. 

Misconceptions about financial aid eligibility and a lack of knowledge about FAFSA and other resources initially prevented Anayeli from pursuing higher education. Years later, now a mother of three children aged 12, 10, and 4, Anayeli’s focus has shifted to securing a brighter future for her family. Her participation in the PIQE programs has equipped her with the knowledge to navigate the challenges she once faced and has provided her with insights into the resources available for pursuing a college degree. 

Join us as we delve into a captivating Q&A session with Anayeli García. We trust you’ll find it both inspiring and enlightening. 

Q: What motivated you to pursue higher education? 

A: I’ve always found fulfillment in assisting others, particularly those who lack proficiency in English or are coping with various traumas. I firmly believe that talking about our problems or struggles is very important, unfortunately not everyone has a friend or family member to talk to and who can give us advice. My aspiration to become a psychologist stemmed from this desire to offer support and guidance to those in need. 

Q: Can you elaborate on the financial challenges or other barriers that prevented you from attending college?  

A: I was an undocumented student, and my understanding was that without a social security number I wouldn’t be able to get any form of financial aid; that made it impossible for me to attend UC Berkeley.  With annual costs totaling $24,000 at the time, even working full-time at the minimum wage of $8.00/hour wouldn’t have covered it. I was unfamiliar with resources such as FAFSA and other forms of student assistance. Without guidance, I struggled to navigate the complexities of accessing help and support. 

Q: How did you feel when you realized that you would not be able to attend college and what did you do to overcome this challenge? 

A: Realizing that attending UC Berkeley wouldn’t be possible left me feeling defeated. In response, I decided to focus on immediate goals and secured a job. Six months later, I took a proactive step forward by enrolling at Sacramento Community College, where I pursued courses for a couple of semesters. Along this journey, I unexpectedly found love, eventually marrying my husband. Now, I am a parent to three wonderful children. 

Q: Have you been able to find any opportunities for personal or professional growth despite not attending university?  

A: Over time, I came to the realization that one doesn’t need to hold a specific title, like Psychologist, to make a meaningful difference in others’ lives. Everywhere I go, I encounter individuals in need, and I’ve been blessed with opportunities to lend a hand. My journey led me through various roles, each offering a platform to assist others. For six years, I served as a tax preparer at H&R Block, aiding hundreds in navigating their financial obligations. Later, I became a Life Insurance and Annuity Agent at New York Life, I extended support and education to many regarding insurance and retirement planning, regardless of their immigration status. Presently, I’m employed with the Sacramento School District’s Special Education department, where I find joy in helping individuals tackle the challenges they face in their daily lives. Through these diverse experiences, I’ve come to appreciate the profound impact one can have by simply extending a helping hand. 

Q: Knowing what you know now, what are some of your strategies for ensuring your children have the opportunity to go to college?  

A: After my experience, I have been dedicating time and effort to preparing my children’s path to college. I am aware that extracurricular activities are significant in college admissions, so I enrolled my children in sports from an early age; they are athletic. When the time comes, I will be exploring various avenues for financial aid, including potential sports scholarships. My children are US citizens so I am confident that they will be able to get financial aid. Furthermore, my husband and I have been gradually saving to have some funds set aside for college expenses, understanding that there will still be financial burdens. And I am always seeking out information that empowers me and gives me the tools to support my children in this journey. 

Q: What advice would you give to families facing similar challenges in their pursuit of higher education?  

A: From my own journey, I’ve learned the importance of seeking out information and support early on. My advice to families facing similar challenges is to never underestimate the power of advocacy and community. Engage with organizations and programs that understand your situation, such as PIQE, which offers invaluable guidance and resources. Explore every option, from state-specific aid like the California Dream Act to scholarships offered by nonprofits. Remember, your undocumented status does not define your potential or limit your possibilities. Stay resilient, connect with mentors who have walked this path before, and always, always ask for help when you need it. The road might be tough, but your dreams are valid, and there are many hands willing to help lift you towards them. 

Unlocking Financial Aid with FAFSA 

Anyone who is considering attending college or career school and is seeking financial assistance to help cover the costs should fill out the FAFSA; it is available for students across the United States.  

FAFSA is the primary application for federal student financial aid programs, which include grants, work-study opportunities, and loans offered by the U.S. Department of Education. Additionally, many states and colleges use the FAFSA to determine eligibility for their own financial aid programs.  

If you have not yet completed the FAFSA, now is the time to do so. The priority deadline for California has been extended until May 2, offering students a crucial window to secure various state financial aid programs, including the esteemed Cal Grant and Middle-Class Scholarship. 


Submit your FAFSA: Home | Federal Student Aid 

FAQ page on filling out the FAFSA: Filling Out the FAFSA® Form | Federal Student Aid 

California Non-SSN Contributor Tip Sheet (mcusercontent.com) 

Better FAFSA Frequently Asked Questions (mcusercontent.com) 

Forma CADAA Solicitud Dream Act de California Better CADAA 2024-2025 (mcusercontent.com)