StoriesJoana Martins-Tabora ’17

Finding Her Place

As the first in her family to go to college, she struggled with the transition between home and campus. The Urban Scholars Initiative gave her confidence.

Joana Martins-Tabora

If it weren’t for the encouragement Joana Martins-Tabora received from Bottom Line, an organization dedicated to guiding low-income students through the college application process, she might not have applied to Lesley at all. College was never on her family’s radar.

“I applied and was accepted to Lesley, and that’s when I first heard about the Urban Scholars Initiative,” she recalls. “I came to campus for an interview with admissions. The woman I spoke to was the nicest person I’ve ever met. She wanted to know everything she could do to help me.”

As a first-generation student, Joana struggled with the transition into college life. But, when she began meeting with the Urban Scholars coordinator, things changed. “I was motivated by my one-on-one meetings with my advisor. She and I set goals every week, whether they were related to my schoolwork, my health, or my emotional well-being. I knew she would do anything to make sure I succeeded here, and I felt comfortable coming to her with anything that was on my mind,” says Joana.

From that point on, Joana began to find her place within the Lesley community. Her advisor made it a point to introduce the scholars to key people on campus. “We even had dinner at the president’s house and met his dog Fudge,” she recalls. “Once I started to realize that the faculty were all real people, like me, I stopped feeling intimidated.”

Today, thanks to support from USI and the Lesley community as a whole, Joana is excelling in her classes, and has taken on a leadership role as a peer mentor to incoming Urban Scholars.

“I make an effort to connect with each and every one of them so that they know they’re not alone here,” she says. “I tell them, ‘I don’t care if you text me at 2:00 am. I’m here, whenever you need me.’”