Andy sits on a bench in Dahlgren Quad in his graduation robes
Category: Spirit of Georgetown

Title: Cura Personalis: ‘It Felt Like Georgetown Was Built for Us’

Date Published: February 3, 2022
Andy Marquez in Los Angeles

I’m from a low-income community in Los Angeles. First-generation. Most of my family is back in El Salvador, so it’s only us out here. 

Growing up, my dad was a truck driver. My mom was a housecleaner and street vendor. On Saturdays, I’d help her dice onions, cabbage and carrots for pupusas that she’d sell outside our apartment. I was the kid with the fanny pack giving people change and counting the money, so it makes sense that I’m in finance now. 

Where I grew up, we only had two career options: playing ball or rapping. We didn’t know of other careers. And either way, whatever path you choose, it felt like you were stuck in a cycle at ground zero. I wanted to be the first person in my family to break that cycle. 

Andy Marquez plays soccer
Andy Marquez (SFS’21) played soccer growing up in Los Angeles.

Sports saved my life. When I stepped onto that court or field, I wasn’t thinking about the adversity or problems back home. It was my only motivating factor to get good grades.

I remember an administrator at my middle school once said to my mom, ‘I doubt Andy will survive a semester in high school.’ When I got to high school, I started realizing my potential, and I got so mad. I couldn’t believe people thought of me this way. I was not a fool, and I was not going to carry that perception with me.

Marquez focused on his academics at a Cristo Rey Jesuit high school in Los Angeles and graduated as salutatorian, with scholarships from the John Gogian Family Foundation, All Ways Up Foundation, Minds Matter of Los Angeles and more. He began applying to colleges and universities that could offer sizeable scholarships to make college affordable. 

I was accepted at Georgetown, and the Georgetown Scholars Program (GSP) reached out. They saw my hard work and wanted me to join GSP. Right away, they made me feel like I was seen, that I was wanted and that I deserved a spot there.

Georgetown offered extra assistance to help me make my decision about which college to go to. I got into every college I applied to except one. I knew that if I was going to get through college, especially with parents who did not speak English and did not understand the process, I would need a village to help me through. And Georgetown won me over. 

“The Jesuits and Georgetown put the right people in place for me, and the stars aligned.”

Andy Marquez

Georgetown offered Marquez a need-based scholarship, and he enrolled in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in 2017. He was in the Community Scholars Program (CSP), an academic program that provides holistic support for multicultural first-generation college students, and in GSP, which supports low-income and first-generation college students during their four years. When Marquez first landed in Washington, DC, a GSP alumnus was at the airport to pick him up so he wouldn’t have to arrive to college alone.

I felt like an outsider my first year. I had a lot of self-doubt. A lot of students had read Socrates or political theorists for the third time before they came to Georgetown. I didn’t know how to pronounce some of those names. 

But the Georgetown Scholars Program broke down those barriers. They found me. I was in the GSP office every day. When I was with that community, it felt like Georgetown was built for us.

Andy Marquez pictured during his first winter in Washington, DC
Andy Marquez pictured during his first winter in Washington, DC in 2017.

It’s the most robust support system that I’ve seen specially designed for first-generation and low-income students. GSP was a one-stop-shop for everything: academic, emotional, mental needs. They even paid for my emergency root canal surgery; that was the kind of support I received. I felt more comfortable going to GSP for academic help than my own TA. It was like an unspoken language. 

Without their support, I wouldn’t be here. I had a family situation that almost caused me to drop out my first year.

In 2017, Marquez flew home for Thanksgiving break. When he landed at the airport, he called his mother to come pick him up. She told him his father was on his way. That was the last time he spoke to her.

Fifteen minutes later, the fire department called. They told me they were taking my mom to the hospital. She had a heart attack. I didn’t even get to see her and tell her what Georgetown was like. 

I just wish I had told her one story about it, or at least she could have seen my degree. That’s a trophy for me. She had been the fuel that kept that engine running.

***

I only had a carry-on bag with me, but I was willing to leave all my stuff behind. I couldn’t leave my family. It felt too hard to go back to Georgetown.

My GSP advisor called, and he told me to come back to school so we could talk. A few weeks later, I did. Once I reconnected with friends and with GSP, I knew my support system was there. I couldn’t make it through Georgetown [virtually] at home. And I realized this was my mom’s dream. She used to tell me how, growing up, she would sneak into a closet with a candle at night just to be able to read. My mom couldn’t get an education. I could. If college could get me the life she wanted, I would do it.

My GSP advisor helped me set up a game plan. With that support system in place, I was back on the road achieving new heights. 

Marquez studied XX in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown.
At Georgetown, Marquez leveraged his financial background to create programming and grants for first-generation and low-income college students.

Marquez also met with GSP’s in-house Counseling and Psychiatric Service (CAPS) embedded counselor. By his sophomore year, he felt back on track and joined the GSP Student Board, where he began developing programming to help incoming first year students in the program.

I wanted to pay it forward. I started thinking about students’ needs. What were the needs you faced as a first year? For one, I knew financial management was big. You need to learn how to read your FAFSA. How to manage your money and loans. How to build a savings account. 

We worked with student leaders to build on financial literacy efforts at Georgetown and produce a program geared toward first-generation college students to help them save and prepare for life after college. We helped build professional development training, wellness opportunities, intramurals, everything.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I created the Learn from Home grant program. I knew it was hard for many low-income students to attend Georgetown virtually without resources, and the program helps alleviate those costs. Hundreds of students used the grant to buy monitors, keyboards, desks, chairs, lamps, you name it. I also mentored other students in GSP to help them pursue their post-graduate plans.

This felt like my calling: How could we make the program even stronger?

“It also gave me a different way to think about cura personalis. In reflecting on my own experience and passion for finance, I realized I could serve the needs of my community more fully. And that creates a ripple effect.”

Andy Marquez
Andy Marquez at his graduation
Marquez graduated from SFS in May 2021.

In addition to his leadership role at GSP, Marquez worked two jobs throughout his four years on the Hilltop, played sports, and volunteered at nonprofits and at his local church. He graduated in 2021 from the Walsh School of Foreign Service. His father and two brothers watched him walk across the stage at Nationals Park in Washington, DC. In 2020, Marquez moved back home and began a two-year rotation program at UBS, working as a wealth management analyst. 

I want to help more families realize their potential. Just like people unlocked potential in me, I want to do the same thing through finance. Part of my business now is to listen to people, to get to know their needs and to help them chase something bigger. 

I am also a campus ambassador for UBS at Georgetown. I’m trying to build a pipeline between South Central and Georgetown. I want to keep expanding the brand. There’s still going to be kids like me with so much potential but feeling trapped in the system, and Georgetown and GSP could be that hope, that make or break.  

I also continue to mentor high schoolers and undergraduate students to help them pursue college, their careers, their homework, open a bank account, build a budget, prepare for standardized tests. For many, I am their one-stop-shop. I do this for my brothers, too; they see me as a role model, and they’re both college-bound as well.

Ultimately, I hope to inspire kids to add financial advisor to their bucket list. Or doctor, civil engineer, lawyer, CEO. We’ve all got talents, it’s just about finding them and developing them. If we could all get on that level, we’d be an unstoppable force.

“I used to joke with my college roommates that I’m going to be my zip code’s first financial advisor. Just you wait. I’m speaking that into existence.”

Andy Marquez

***

I now work 15 minutes from where I grew up. When I was a kid, I used to pass my building on the highway. I wondered what those people did, who they were. Now, I’m swiping into that building. Security knows my name. I’m only able to do so because of all the right decisions, and the right people that were in my life.

Looking back at that kid, I feel comforted now. Everything turned out alright, just like my mom always said it would be. We’re going to be fine.

 

Editor’s Note: The featured image is by Onrei Josh Ladao.