By Sumiko Martinez on January 7, 2016

Happy New Year, everyone! To kick off 2016 with some education-related inspiration, StepUp Utah will be featuring a four-week series of profiles on successful people from different walks of life, talking about how education helped them to get where they are. Our first two profiles are from Lola Akeripa and Char Newbold.

Lola Akeripa
Attended: Salt Lake Community College and Weber State University
Degree: Master’s degree, Criminal Justice (2006) 

Lola infographic
Rugby fan. Devoted aunt. Educator to the core. Lola is currently working at Mana Academy, a public charter school focused on bridging the achievement gap between Pacific Islander students and their counterparts in educational success. She manages the office and advises students about college preparation and financial aid. For Lola, education is a critical part of defining success:

 “Success is having a college degree, but it’s not just about the paper. It’s thinking about what you went to school for and implementing it into your career, even if it doesn’t seem like it lines up. You might find your passion after the fact. Part of success is having your degree on hand just in case something happens.”

It’s a competitive world, and Lola says that education has given her an edge. “A lot of companies won’t even look at you if you don’t have a degree. Even if you have a lot of experience, a degree makes you a more marketable person.”

On financial aid:

“For me personally, financial aid and the FAFSA helped me a lot. Without it I wouldn’t have even made it to the masters’ level. There’s no way I could have even afforded college at all. Financial aid and scholarships are good to have and very, very helpful but you’ve got to know how to make use of it. I cringe when I hear about people hopping around schools. If you take out student loans, make sure you have a plan to continue – the worst thing is to drop out and have to repay your loans. Try to pay for as much as you can with scholarships and grants. Don’t take out a loan if you can avoid it. I only took what I absolutely needed to pay for my education. Once you take out a student loan, it’s on you!”

And as Lola points out, it’s also really important to find the right people to help you with financial aid. Sometimes it’s a financial aid officer, and sometimes it’s a friend or relative who asks about your goals. “A friend told me to apply for financial aid, and helped me apply for the first time – that’s how I started! He cared about me and asked me where I wanted to be five years from then. If it wasn’t for that friend, I would have never graduated with my Bachelor’s. That was in January, and in April he passed away. For the short time I knew him, I was so grateful for him.”

Char Newbold
Attended: Westminster College, Indiana University-Bloomington
Degrees: B.A. in English Literature (2007), Master’s degree in Library Science (2015) 

Librarian extraordinaire. Data geek. Batman superfan. Char is currently working as a Librarian/Metadata Cataloguer for the Utah State Library Division in Salt Lake City after earning her Master’s degree in Library Science (MLS) from Indiana University, Bloomington earlier this year. True to form, Char says that a successful life is one in which you “…always have a goal and an interest in learning and growing beyond your present state.”

Char attributes her professional success directly to her educational experiences.

“If I hadn’t earned my MLS I would not have a job, because the library field is so specialized. You need those skill sets to make you the best in your field and set you up for success in your career.”

Char infographic

On financial aid:

If I hadn’t received several scholarships and grants while at Westminster I would not have had the opportunity of going to that college at all. The financial aid [specifically student loans] I borrowed has hindered me only in that it is a constant concern that lurks over your shoulder. However, because I am personally responsible for repaying my loans I feel as if this has made me a more capable and mature adult and set up me up well for my future goals and aspirations.”

Char’s advice for college students:

“Do not be afraid to learn anything. My degree is in English literature, and I learned about aviation, archiving, retail, history, cinematography, and who knows what else, because I was willing to take advantage of opportunities for anything and everything when they came along. After all, you can’t say you don’t like it if you haven’t tried it.”

Stay tuned next week for another post in this series on education and success!

Sumiko Martinez is a Community Outreach Officer with the Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority (UHEAA). Learn more about Sumiko at, and connect with her on Twitter @SumikoMartinez.