Traveling to Ghana to See My Impact in Action

By
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October 4, 2016

This is the seventh in a series of blog posts from each of the CommonBond members and employees who will join us on our second-annual trip to Ghana to see CommonBond's Social Promise in action. Read posts by each member and employee who is taking the trip to understand why the trip is important to them and what they are looking forward to.

Name  

Jessica Yanez 

School/Grad Year

Elon University School of Law, Class of 2011 

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What She's Bringing on the Plane

Her laptop (to document the journey in words), The Promise of a Pencil (a book by Pencils of Promise Founder Adam Braun), and an inflatable travel pillow (for sleeping)

Jessica's Story

From the time I was a young child I knew that I wanted to be an attorney. In 2006, during my last year of college, I began working as a paralegal at an immigration law firm and it was then that I knew it was my calling to become an immigration attorney.

In 2008 I enrolled at Elon University School of Law and my passion for the law grew even stronger. During my first year in law school we had to record a video about why we wanted to become an attorney and my answer was simple—I want to help people. With a law degree I can do just that. I am able to help people who have had to flee their country due to persecution, survivors of domestic violence and other serious crimes, children who have been abandoned, and many others who have been separated from their families for years, even decades.

As an immigration attorney I am able to immerse myself not only in the law, but also in language, culture, history, international politics, and human rights. Since opening my own firm in December 2012, I have assisted hundreds of families from nearly forty different countries. Oftentimes they are in difficult situations, having overcome unimaginable circumstances. Thanks to my education, I have the tools that are needed to help my clients achieve lawful status in the United States. When their cases are over it is really just the beginning of the endless opportunities and dreams that they can achieve in the United States.

I have a large map in my office, and on it, we put a pin in every country where our clients are from. I look at the map as I work and think about the impact that I have in this world. I recall one client from Ghana who came to me after he received a notice that his green card case might be denied. I learned from him about how great his country was and also the challenges that he faced there. One of those challenges was the fact that in Ghana schooling is not free, so many families are not able to send their children to school at all. With a lot of hard work, we were able to win his case. When I called to tell him the good news you could hear the happiness in his voice. Now he is able to live in the United States and go back home to visit family that he was separated from for decades.

While opening my own firm was an exciting endeavor, I soon came to realize that my student loans had become a burden and a near constant worry. I kept a sticky note in my desk with the amount that I owed. I would get bills each month from two different loan providers with a laundry list of all of the loans I had taken out, all with different interest rates. Some were more than 8%. I sat down with my husband to do the math and we realized that at this rate it would be nearly impossible to ever pay off my student loans. Until I found CommonBond. Now I know that I am able to focus on my work without worrying about being burdened by student loans. The first thing that was surprising to me that CommonBond was such an easy company to work with. I could always communicate with them right away and they seemed like real people who were genuinely interested in helping me. I ended up saving a lot of money and now it is very easy to see how much I owe every month and the progress that I have made in paying off my loans. Now my husband and I can see the finish goal on the horizon and I finally threw away that pesky sticky note that was a constant reminder of being burdened by student loans. Now I feel like a weight has been lifted off of our shoulders and I can focus on my law practice and my family without the constant stress of student loans.

After I consolidated my loans with CommonBond they sent me a welcome package that included a handwritten thank you note, a CommonBond shirt and the book The Promise of a Pencil. I started reading the book right away and it was so inspiring. I am fortunate to no longer have to stress over my student loans, but what is even more gratifying to me is that CommonBond is committed to ensuring that children around the world are afforded the same opportunity to receive a quality education. I am very grateful for the opportunity to go to Ghana and see the impact that I am able to have on students throughout the world just by paying my student loans. I know that this trip will be life changing.

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