A business plan for a better future

July 2, 2024

By Julie Cooper

For business analytics student Yazeli Lomas-Ayala, pursuing a college degree at OSU isn’t only about positioning herself for a successful life; it’s her dream and her strategy to uplift her family, too. 

The daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico, she was raised by her single mother in Boardman, Oregon, a small community of about 3,900 residents along the Columbia River in Eastern Oregon. She was one of just six from her high school’s graduating class to enroll at a university. 

With few college-goers around her to offer guidance, she expected to wade through many aspects of college life on her own. Finances. FAFSA. Even the college jargon that many students and their families already seemed to be versed in. 

But she was driven. As the oldest with four younger siblings, she realized that the power of higher education extends beyond herself. 

“I felt a lot of pressure at first,” she says of becoming the first in her family to go to a university. “But it’s also really exciting, because a lot of us from my hometown grew up with the mindset: after high school, work. But now my younger siblings see: after high school, college.” 

She is working diligently to build the future she wants. At the top of her priority list: a degree that opens doors to top companies and a career with the flexibility to work from home and take care of her family. 

It hasn’t always been easy, but she’s been the picture of persistence. 

She originally enrolled at a different in-state university but found herself struggling with the costs. Determined to try again for a better fit, she followed her instincts to Oregon State, where she found a welcoming community and a supportive environment, especially within the College of Business. 

“I met a lot of people, and the professors are really nice. They really want to help you. They want you to do good,” she says. Her active participation in university life — including various student clubs, such as the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) and Women Mean Business — has helped her build connections, and she is finally able to enjoy the well-rounded college experience she dreamed of. 

Still, she worries about how to pay for her education, and says that her experience might have looked very different without support from the Steven and Marjatta Daniels Business Scholarship and other financial aid. 

“Just a single scholarship means, ‘Oh, I don't have to take out that loan. I don’t have that debt.’ When you’re going to school,” says Lomas-Ayala, “it’s always in the back of your head. You’re just stressing about, ‘I can’t even focus on my work because I’m thinking about how do I even pay for this.’” 

Learn how you can support OSU’s new Finish in Four program to help close financial gaps for Oregon students and help Oregon State become a university where every student graduates. Finish in Four is the university’s top philanthropic priority for student success, providing renewable, four-year scholarships as well as academic support to help students graduate on time with little to no debt.