Growing up, Juan’s family didn’t have the resources to help him pay for college. He worked two jobs through high school, saving for tuition, but was still worried he wouldn’t be able to afford an education. That’s when a high school guidance counselor told him about Questa.
He applied, and was accepted into the program.
“I think I probably cried, because it was June and school was coming up. It was the greatest feeling in the world to be able to feel that I could breathe.”
Now, Juan is a nursing student at the University of St. Francis. He says Questa has made a difference in his career beyond educational support. Last summer, Questa connected him with an internship at the City of Fort Wayne, where he met civic and industry leaders and spent time with a community of mentors.
After graduation, Juan plans to stay in Fort Wayne and work in area hospitals. He said he believes it’s important to give back to the city that he loves.
“We have to put diverse people in professional careers to be able to grow together,” Juan said. “I’m very thankful to Questa for believing in me and supporting me.”
After graduating from North Side High School in Fort Wayne, Bonnie faced a tough decision: stay in town for college and save money by living at home, or attend her top university, out of town, and take on substantial debt.
“I graduated in the top ten in my class, and I had all these scholarships, but there was still that deficit,” she says.
Then a high school counselor told her about Questa. Questa’s loan forgiveness program meant she could go to her dream school without large amounts of debt affecting her ability to start a life post-graduation.
“Having Questa was huge,” Bonnie says. “It was less of a financial burden that we had to worry about.”
Now, she’s a teacher with Fort Wayne Community Schools, where she said her hometown knowledge means she enjoys a special connection with students.
“Without Questa, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today,” she says. “I was able to go to the school I wanted to, but still come back here and make a difference in our community. I know as a teacher I could go anywhere and teach and make a difference, but I like being able to do it where I grew up.”
James is a direct support professional at Benchmark in Fort Wayne. He spends his days assisting clients with everyday tasks like cooking, shopping, and doing laundry.
“I’m happy when I’m able to help people be independent, to do what they want in life,” he said.
With this in mind, James recently went back to school to pursue a nursing degree. But as a single parent who works full time, it was difficult to manage the costs and logistics of his coursework.
Through a partnership between AWS Foundation and Questa Education Foundation, James received financial support to help cover transportation and childcare costs, along with portions of his tuition and fees.
Ultimately, James aspires to be a nurse practitioner, to work more extensively with clients and help improve their quality of life. He says he’s grateful for his employer’s partnership with Questa, which has helped make this future possible.
“I think the combination of Benchmark and Questa is a good thing in the community,” James said, “because they empower you to do what you want to do.”
Derek grew up in Columbia City and attended Manchester University, where he studied accounting and played on the baseball team. As a Questa Scholar, Derek had access to low-interest, forgivable loans—and because Manchester is one of Questa’s regional partner schools, he received additional loan assistance.
After graduation, Derek thought about taking a job in a larger city, like Indianapolis or Chicago. But, he says, Questa’s regionally-focused loan forgiveness program was the incentive he needed to stay and invest in the region he’s always called home.
“It’s a pretty awesome opportunity, and to say ‘no, I’m going to pass that up’—that would have been a hard decision to make.”
He took a job at the local branch of the accounting firm Katz, Sapper & Miller, and joined the Emerging Leaders Alliance of the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, where he’s helping shape the future of the region. And he sees Questa as a key part of accomplishing the partnership’s vision.
“Questa is at the forefront of the whole initiative to retain talent,” Derek said. “I probably would not be in Fort Wayne if it wasn’t for Questa, but I’m so happy to be here. I feel that I can make a difference moving forward, doing work that matters.”