Skysundieas “Sky” Goyang was homeless when she decided it was time to prepare for a better future. She began looking into college options, but when it came time to apply for financial aid, she kept hitting roadblocks because she had no way of supplying her parent’s financial information. That is until she found out about Laurel Ridge.
Originally from the Atlanta region, Goyang was very independent even before graduating from high school.
“I had two jobs supporting myself though high school,” she said.
Goyang lost those jobs earlier in the pandemic, and at the urging of a friend moved to Virginia in 2020, first living in Reston and now in Manassas. She knew she wanted a career in cybersecurity, so the first step was going to college.
In order to apply for financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), students who will be under 24 as of Jan. 1 of the academic year they’re applying for must provide information regarding their parent’s income. However, if a student was homeless, self-supporting and at risk of being homeless on or after July 1, 2021, they may also be considered independent for financial aid purposes.
Before discovering Laurel Ridge, Goyang started applying to other colleges, only to get hung up on the financial aid issue. But at Laurel Ridge, she was put in touch with Success Coach Julie Fainter after filling out a Single Stop profile at https://app.singlestop.org/vccs/lordfairfaxcc. Single Stop connects students to local community and government resources that can assist with food, healthcare, housing, transportation, utility payments and more.
“Julie was able to reach out to the Financial Aid Office to get that taken care of, so I could enroll,” Goyang said. “When I came to Laurel Ridge, they were able to figure out what the problem was. The college has been really, really helpful.”
When she didn’t have professional attire for a job interview, the college referred her to Dress for Success of Central Virginia, which provided her with an outfit.
“When I wasn’t working, Ms. Julie was able to provide me with a gas card through the Laurel Ridge Educational Foundation so I was able to get back and forth to class. The experience has been so good. Everybody has been really kind. The teachers and staff are just really, really helpful. Before, I had a very bad experience trying to enroll in school, and when I came here, it’s been so easy.
“I feel like I have definitely got something going and can achieve a lot just being in this community college where people actually want to help you and actually want you to learn. I am just so excited for the year. I have so many things going on now that I have gotten through the hard part.”
After taking her CompTIA Fundamentals class – offered through Laurel Ridge Workforce Solutions – Goyang plans to take the CompTIA A+ course. Again, the foundation was able to provide Goyang with assistance, this time through scholarship funding.
“With those two certifications, I should be able to find a really decent job,” she said.
Goyang hopes to then get her own place to live and start pursuing her associate degree in cybersecurity this summer. Laurel Ridge’s cybersecurity program has been deemed a program of quality by the National Security Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is accredited by ABET’s Computing Accreditation Commission.
“I always knew I wanted to work in the IT field, even in high school,” Goyang said. “I took computer science and intro to digital technology classes, which have given me a good understanding of what I’m studying in my CompTIA class.”
And, she has since started a part-time job at CyberTeck Academy, which offers tutoring, classes and camps. Now that she has the job, Goyang can also get a full week’s worth of outfits through Dress for Success, Fainter said.
Laurel Ridge faculty and staff are trained to go the extra mile for their students.
“Sky is just one example of a student who has benefited from the assistance our Single Stop program can provide,” said Success Coach Fainter. “If you’re struggling and aren’t sure where to turn, the first step is to complete a Single Stop profile, or contact us at [email protected].”
Laurel Ridge Community College was known as Lord Fairfax Community College until June 2022. For consistency purposes, the college will be referenced as Laurel Ridge going forward.