AUSTIN, Texas (October 6, 2021) - Since 2015, every year Self has provided $1,000 college scholarships to aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make the world a better place. This year, we have a pair of winners: Diego Gonzalez Ahumada and Talsia Jenkins.
Both of our 2021 winners run their own apparel businesses. They also each dream of even bigger things—and both are working hard to build their credit and make those dreams a reality.
Diego Gonzalez Ahumada is a second-year student at The University of Texas at Austin, where he studies accounting. Diego is currently on track to earn two accounting degrees in five years. But just a few years ago, he was unsure he would ever be able to attend a four year college.
Growing up across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Diego and his family saw their city become extremely violent due to warring drug cartels. When they had to flee to the United States for their safety, they had to start their lives over in a new country.
Diego’s parents weren’t familiar with the nuances of personal finance in the US, where loans and credit cards affect your credit profile differently than they do in Mexico. Then, when credit card debt took a toll on his family’s collective credit, getting a credit card of his own seemed like a longshot for him.
“Compound interest is unbearable when it is not working in your favor,” Diego says. He didn’t know how to fix his family’s money problems, but he recognized something was wrong. After scouring YouTube and reading up on personal finance, he started to understand how he could improve his — and his family’s — financial future.
“I began learning about the importance of credit and how to leverage the notorious three-digit system in your favor,” he explains.
It took some convincing, but Diego talked his parents into allowing him to get his own secured credit card, which is a credit card backed by a refundable security deposit. And now that he’s building credit with timely payments, he has his sights set on a conventional credit card.
Diego’s career ambitions are also growing. While at school, he founded his own fashion line, State of Elevation. Designing and selling clothing enables him to combine his creativity and business acumen into a fun and successful venture.
After graduation, Diego plans to use his accounting degree, experience and expertise to “provide a much-needed financial education for immigrants who might be unfamiliar with the U.S financial system.”
“By providing educational services in relation to finance, I hope to give many the opportunity to thrive financially in the United States, something that my parents never received. A healthy financial lifestyle might sound difficult to attain, however, it is important that one master the double-edged sword of credit in order to swing it in one’s favor,” Diego says.
Talsia Jenkins is a student at South Florida Bible College & Theological Seminary, where she’s working toward a Bachelor of Arts in Ministry.
Originally from Montego Bay, Jamaica, Talsia immigrated to the United States in her teens. In a streak of unfortunate circumstances, Talsia faced a divorce and a cancer diagnosis back to back.
After her diagnosis, Talsia began to understand the support system that women with cancer need. She launched a line of inspirational t-shirts to create community for these women. But there was an obstacle in her way: her credit.
A low credit score was stopping Talsia from applying for new credit cards or loans, and her new business was suffering for it. She started down a journey to improve her credit profile. After working hard — and opening a Self Credit Builder Account — she was able to build up her credit and supercharge her borrowing power.
With a better credit score, Talsia was able to obtain a second credit card and used it to start her own nonprofit organization, Cancer Chicks Live More, which offers support to female cancer patients and survivors.
Now three years in remission, Talsia has big plans to continue helping her community. After graduation, she aims to become a counselor to provide further healing to women affected by cancer.
“I know what it feels like to go through such a horrible experience, from the diagnosis to losing it all," Talsia says.
She envisions her nonprofit will supply health and beauty products for cancer patients, and even hopes to offer resources for those who need help paying their bills during treatment. Perhaps most importantly of all, Talsia wants to create a safe space for women with cancer “to thrive during and after their diagnoses.”
“I would love to give back, help someone, and be a pillar of strength to that girl or woman who needs to know that they aren’t alone,” Talsia says. “My goal may not be easy to meet, but nothing good comes easy.”