Santa Ynez native Hanali Tapia-Palacios earned a bachelor’s degree in agriculture science and education at Cal State Chico. She joined the Scholarship Foundation staff as an administrative assistant in January 2019 and became a south county program advisor last February.
What is the most gratifying part of your job?
Knowing that we play a critical role in how community members view higher education. We see this in our summer programs, where we introduce elementary students to the concept of college, and in our work to prepare high school seniors and their families for the real deal. It is gratifying to know that they can rely on us to ease the path to college. Also, I will never tire of watching the faces of our recipients as they walk across the stage at our awards ceremonies. It is extremely humbling to work with students with different backgrounds and passions, and watch their dreams come true right before our eyes.
Do you ever hear back from the people you have helped as an SFSB program advisor?
Yes! I have received emails from students letting me know that they were awarded a scholarship and couldn’t have done it without our guidance. Those emails always make my day.
How did you come to work in student outreach services? Is it something you have always wanted to do?
I have a passion for people and always knew I needed to find a career with a focus on helping others. At Chico State, I was offered the position of peer advisor in the College of Agriculture. That is when it really clicked for me and I realized I could help beyond the classroom. (At that point I was considering a career in teaching.) My role as a peer advisor really sparked my passion for student outreach.
What would you say to students or parents who may be reluctant to pursue financial aid counseling?
New things are scary, but financial aid counseling exists to diminish the fear associated with the thought of attending and paying for college. Students and their families can be successful in the process with just a little guidance. The earlier you ask questions the easier things become. College is fun, and we want to make sure that getting to college is fun in its own way.
What is your most memorable experience as an SFSB program advisor?
My first tabling event as a program advisor. It was at San Marcos High School, and Chico State representatives staffed the table right across from us. It really brought back memories – I had taken part in numerous tabling events as a peer advisor at Chico State. Such “full-circle” moments are rare, but when you experience them everything you do seems worth it.
What is the most common misconception about financial aid?
As a college student, I had assumed I was ineligible for financial aid due to my parents’ income, and so limited myself in applying for scholarships. I now know how common this misconception is, and am determined to dispel it. The truth is financial aid awards are based on many factors. It is always better to apply for multiple forms of financial aid than not try and miss out.