Maria Garcia-Garcia, a 2020 graduate and salutatorian of the Young Women’s Leadership Academy, is headed to Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, where she plans to study electrical engineering and computer science.

But her journey may have take a different path if VIA had not been there to provide transportation to and from school the last six years. Garcia-Garcia explains that she relied on VIA as her sole mode of transportation, and without bus service her dreams to attend the elite university may have stalled.

Here is her story.