United Way's Fun in the Sun (FITS) program has truly made an impact in my life. As a FITS camper, I developed self-confidence and built a more mature and positive attitude based on Character Counts. FITS also helped me gain an interest in reading and science, both of which I had largely disliked in school and was struggling with.
These newly developed interests, along with a sense of community that I was able to forge with the staff, Lunch Bunch volunteers and peers in the program, were the foundation for my love of learning, desire to pursue a higher education, and strong sense of responsibility to my community. At the end of every FITS summer, I said goodbye to friends and counselors with tears in my eyes. Receiving the support from FITS staff was truly invaluable, especially because at the time, my parents were unable to afford alternative summer plans for me. It was such a wonderful thing to be a part of a space in which I genuinely felt welcomed, cared for, empowered, and motivated.
As a FITS Counselor-in-Training during my high school career, I was able to further develop my leadership skills and received academic counseling from the Santa Barbara Scholarship Foundation staff. I graduated from San Marcos High School with 600+ hours of community service, most of which were completed with FITS.
When it was time to apply for college, I hesitantly decided to apply to UCLA, my dream school, never imagining that one day I would attend. As my acceptance letters came in, I was sure I would be attending UCSB simply because I thought that I needed to live at home to save money. However, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and reach for my dreams, which led me to attend UCLA. Two jobs, one cancer diagnosis (for which I received treatment during my third year and as of last month have been declared "no evidence of disease"), 8 roommates, and countless papers later, I graduated in the Fall of 2015 with a B.A. in Sociology and a double minor in Latin American Studies and Global Studies.
I am now back in Santa Barbara and am working as an Admissions Counselor at UCSB. I am also excited to participate in a new FITS Alumni Group to connect alumni with younger program participants. It is a privilege to serve the community that has served me!
It was a difficult journey for me, but I owe so much to FITS and this community for starting me off on this amazing journey. Thank you so much for giving, volunteering, and supporting FITS. The program has transformed who I am and opened up opportunities I never thought possible.
- Yessica Arroyo, Fun in the Sun Alumna