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Debt Free and Giving Back

Kaylin Wesley sits on a campus wall wearing her graduation cap, gown, and sash, along with a medal and VIP Scholars sash.
Graduate Kaylin Wesley is grateful for the support she received at UCLA — and she’s giving back to help other deserving students.

Recent UCLA graduate Kaylin Wesley ’17 on giving opportunity

The day I graduated from UCLA, I remember thinking, Wow, I just graduated from UCLA with no debt. How can I give back to my community? Then I considered my friends and peers who graduated that day and instead were thinking, Paying back my student loans starts right now.

I started UCLA when I was in tenth grade. Well, not really, but that’s when I was recruited to participate in the UCLA Vice Provost Initiative for Pre-College Scholars (VIPS), which set me on the path to becoming a Bruin.

The scholarship money I received through VIPS, part of the Academic Advancement Program, and the amazing network of mentors and peers it exposed me to were absolutely deciding factors in my choosing UCLA over other universities I’d been accepted to. Not having to work full time or put a financial strain on my family made room for my academic and personal accomplishments.

I’m reminded of that every day, in part because many of my close friends who also attended UCLA did not have the same opportunities. I have friends with no scholarship support and families who are unable to help them financially. I’ve seen my peers work full time, go to class daily as full-time students, study, and tend to family obligations. The pressure has academic, emotional, and physical consequences, even for my most determined and resilient friends.

I am very grateful for the support I received, and now I want to help UCLA continue its public mission of creating access for deserving students from all walks of life. UCLA is at the forefront of diversity and access in higher education, and I feel like we all must do everything possible to make and keep a UCLA education within reach.

That’s why, with a small inheritance from my grandmother — an educator who taught me the importance of education — my family and I are starting the Ernestine V. Austin Foundation. Our first act will be creating a scholarship at UCLA. Only by including the economically disadvantaged among its students can UCLA be as culturally rich and vibrant as the city it calls home.

Kaylin Wesley ’17

Published December 2017

Kaylin Wesley sits with her sister, mother, and grandmother.

From left: Wesley’s sister, Nicole; her mother, Karen; her grandmother, Ernestine; and Wesley

Kaylin Wesley poses with her arm around her mentee at Royce Hall.

Wesley (left) and her mentee Ariel Mengistu

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