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College program helps thousands of city kids get into college with solid financial aid packages

Long Island City, Qns.—Alondra Cena has lived most of her life across from this spectacular view of Manhattan.

An only child, she went to elementary and middle school in Long Island City, where she lived with her mom in the NYCHA housing complex.

"My mom, as a single parent, struggled a lot with finding work, especially because she never graduated from college herself," Cena explained.

As a student at the Young Women’s Leadership School, it was instilled in her to have college aspirations.

Even as early as 6th grade, Alondra and her classmates went on school trips to local college campuses, through the network’s College Bound Initiative program.

"As you get closer to high school, you start to get a little more focused on the college process. And Lauren, who is my college-bound counselor, she's just been amazing," Cena said.

Cena says she's stayed at school till 6 o'clock sometimes, just working on her essays, doing mock interviews and signing up for college stuff.

She applied to six CUNY's, four SUNY's and ten private schools, before deciding on Babson College, a business school located in Massachusetts.

As she gets ready to embark on her college career, she knows she could not have done with this without the support of her mom.

"She knows, at the end of the day, she wants me to go further in life than she did. She wants me to do the best that I can, even though it means leaving her here," Cena said.

And her counselor at CBI...

"I think Young Women's Leadership School and the College Bound Initiative program helped me get to where I needed to be today. I really wouldn't be standing here in front of you, going to Babson College, if it wasn't for all the support and community I had behind me," Cena reflected.