Debra Brandy, MassBay’s Community College Senior Financial Aid Counselor, explains some of the services she and others provide at MassBay, including teaching students how to use the massbay.edu website to apply for scholarships, or via the Office of Student Financial Aid Assistance, or from any outside scholarship. We also help them complete their Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) forms and their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) paperwork.
Debra first came to Boston in 1997 from a small island in the Caribbean, St. Kitts and Nevis. She conveys how the culture there doesn’t put education at the forefront, but instead is about supporting one’s parents.
Students come in to her MassBay office and say they cannot get things done because, "…life is happening," she replies that life always happens, and how every time someone plans to do something which will benefit them in the long run, life will certainly interfere. She goes on to tell students how she, herself, also struggled. When she was in school, her mother died while she was studying for her master's degree. She wanted to quit the first semester, but she knew perseverance would help her win.
Due to her firsthand life experiences, she’s able to give students meaningful encouragement and offer them a friendly ear if they need someone to talk to or just listen. She tells them about her own difficult journey when she first came to Boston and was homeless, at one point. She relates on many levels with the students, both academically and personally.
Debra walks students through the financial aid process, tells them how long it will take to receive their awards, and describes the documents needed for processing their financial aid. She will always go the extra mile to let them the best way to arrive at an aid approval. She stays honest and upfront with students and sometimes has to have hard conversations with them. Instead of merely giving students tools in the hopes they will use them on their own, she actually helps to guide them.
Debra believes that if she can be successful, anyone can. When she was living on the small island, she didn't realize how sheltered she was until she headed out into the world and learned about things she wasn't previously exposed to back home. MassBay students are lucky to have Debra’s real life experiences and wisdom to help them navigate the financial aid process.