UCF student tries to fufill dad's final wish

Maria Bahamon and her father on the day he got his U.S. citizenship. Bahamon has faced many obstacles and setbacks in the way of trying to fulfill her father's wish of Bahamon graduating from college.

Interpersonal disciplinary studies major Maria Bahamon said the UCF Financial Aid Office has made it difficult for her to fulfill her dad’s final wish: finish school.

On Nov. 11, 2018, Bahamon applied for a medical withdrawal for the fall semester after her father died. 

A medical withdrawal is a process that students may request if they are unable to complete a semester due to a medical condition.  

Bahamon said she took financial responsibility of the apartment she and her family lived in, resulting in her needing financial assistance for her classes. 

Despite being devastated by her father's death and battling depression, she did not give up on pursing her dad's final wishes and registered for classes in the spring term. 

On Dec. 5, 2018, Bahamon said she received a SAP (Satisfactory Academic Progress) warning status and was denied financial aid for the spring semester. She said she appealed the denial and it was also denied. 

"What could be more pressing than a student that lost a father," Bahamon said. "But not just lost him to a natural death but to suicide."

Still motivated to fulfill her dad's wishes no matter what, Bahamon took one to two classes a semester by being a part of a tuition payment plan and being a Broward College transient student. 

"I wasn't the best student in the past," she said. "But I'm showing that I'm making an effort."

Bahamon said she applied for financial aid for the fall 2020 semester but was denied aid. She said she appealed the denial and was again denied. 

"Denying this SAP appeal is an extremely big deal to me," she said. "Not only does it set me back to graduate, but I can not afford to pay out of pocket." 

Bahamon lost her job in July and said paying out of pocket is "unbearable". 

When checking her emails, Bahamon said she received an email on Aug. 11. stating she received financial aid for the fall 2020 semester.

On Aug. 12, the Office of Student Financial Assistance sent her an email stating she was "erroneously awarded aid for the fall 2020 semester."

Karemah Campbell Manselle, associate director for Office of Student Financial Assistance, said UCF had over 60% SAP approvals in the last academic year. 

"Some examples of denial reasons include lack of supporting documentation, utilizing the same appeal reason in a previously approved appeal or exclusion of affected terms not resulting in the student meeting the SAP standards due to a history of unsuccessful coursework," Manselle said.

Bahamon said she was unaware that you could not use a previous appeal reason when submitting a new one.

With all her efforts run out, Office of Interdisciplinary Studies Advisor Karen Baxley came to her side. 

"She's amazing," Bahamon said. "She's the only one person who actually cares or even tried to root for me." 

Bahamon said Baxley estimated she has roughly a year left of school and a SAP of 67%. 

Although it took Bahamon longer than she expected to graduate, she is hopeful she will fulfill her dad's wishes. 

"I'm trying to better myself so I can make my dad's wish," Bahamon said. "He wanted us to live the American dream."

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