To hear Grace Lumba tell it, she’s been lucky. But hearing about her life so far, it becomes clear rather quickly that Grace Lumba has made her own luck – through hard work, diligence, smarts and not least, a great attitude.
But luckily for Alaska, the donors who make scholarships possible ensured that one of Alaska’s own received the education she needed to navigate hardships on a journey marked by family challenges, perseverance, gratitude and giving back.
Grace Lumba graduated from the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. Lumba didn’t have a free ride through UAS. She worked throughout her college years, mostly on campus.
Born in Juneau, Grace is a second-generation Filipina-American. She spent time in Anchorage as a child but moved back to Juneau for her final high school years. Ten years ago, when Grace was 14, her parents divorced and her mother first developed what would become long-term health problems.
“During high school it was pretty tough. We didn’t always have money for food or utilities. I worked all through high school to help my mom,” she said. Despite the challenges, Grace never doubted she would go to college. High school teachers provided strong moral support and she heeded the advice of a beloved and successful great aunt.
“She always told me to be very careful about taking out too many loans or getting out of control with credit cards. She drummed that into me,” Lumba said. “The summer before college, I worked three different jobs. I used that money to build a tiny little cushion,” Lumba recalls.
“Knowing I wouldn’t have support from family, I applied for as many scholarships as I could. Looking at it now, at all the agencies that reached out, well it changed my life,” she said. Lumba received scholarships ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars.
“All the scholarships were meaningful to me. As a poor, young, single person, it helps to know they saw me as worthy. That they felt it was worth giving their money to me. It might seem like $300 or $500 isn’t that much, but even small amounts really help,” she said.
She’s now employed as Family Services Coordinator at the Association for the Education of Young Children – Southeast Alaska (AEYC-SEA). “I adore the agency and its mission. I seem to have a compelling desire to be of service, especially to help parents and their kids.”
Lumba loves her work at AEYC-SEA – she says it is a very real way to facilitate change and promote education – but she also hopes to pursue writing some day, to write about her journey and the struggles she’s had. She’d like to travel, too. “But right now I’m building a foundation for all those things to happen.”