Keila has wanted to make an impact in the lives of families, especially those with children, since her son was diagnosed with Autism fifteen years ago. Because of the struggles she faced as a young mother (being 26 at the time of her son’s diagnosis and already having a five year old daughter) Keila saw the gaps in the support for women and families who were trying to help their children with this pervasive disorder. Keila knew then that she would need to obtain her degree in order to be able to provide for her son’s financial security in the future. Dealing with the pressures of managing child care, a part-time job, and going through a turbulent divorce resulting in Keila obtaining an order of protection, Keila never lost hope. In 2018, Keila was a divorced mother of two and working for a non profit organization specializing in domestic violence. Keila took a chance and enrolled in Borough of Manhattan Community College, earning a 3.8 GPA there and was subsequently accepted to Columbia University. Keila now has a 4.0 GPA at Columbia and with the aid of the Education Fund is working diligently on completing her degree in the hopes of being able to properly provide for her children.


“I would like to be a part of an organization that caters to the needs of those with disabilities and whose focus is not just the children themselves but by supporting parents in obtaining higher education or vocational skills to better provide for their families, as this is the key to ensuring these children find themselves financially cared for as adults.” – Keila Palencia

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