I decided to go to college initially because it was what was expected of me. My parents never got to finish high school and it was like they had sacrificed their lives to ensure I had the chance to go to college.
It was extremely hard to navigate things like applying for college, financial aid, understanding what classes to take and what careers were open to you without the help of college prep programs I was in. A lot of times me and my siblings had to be the ones to explain to our mom what we were doing and it felt like you didn’t really have people at home to lean on, all of us were learning as we go.
I would tell someone starting college to lean on to any help they can find. Leaning on to advisors, groups and programs like TRIO can help make college less daunting and you can have people that can help you navigate it easier.
I like that this is my second time around in school and it doesn’t feel like I am an odd one out. There is so much diversity in age, race and experiences that it’s easy to feel like you fit in. You’re able to find people that are in the same path as you and connect with them.
When I was a little girl, I promised my dad that I would go to college. At the time I didn't know what college was or where I would go, but I remember that I made a promise to him and 22 years later I am keeping it.
My first college North Central University was not the right fit for me, I thought I wanted to go for business, but I was wrong, so I decided to transfer to Minneapolis college since they had more resources and it had more opportunities for me to explore, at first I was in the fashion program here and then transferred to Graphic design with some encouragement from a friend and my teacher Bailey Renalie.
I want First generation students to know that sometimes it might be hard, and life will throw curve balls at you but in my personal experience, the person that has kept me on track besides my family is Jesus. He has pushed me and taught me to never give up, and some advice from a a fellow brother in Christ or as I call my friend Ben told me "Brianna, never let anyone steal your joy, Ya' know?" So never let anyone steal your joy or passion, be true to who you are and what you love, and never let anyone steal your joy.
The diversity and resources, if we didn't have these grant programs or scholarships funds college would not be able to afford college or even dream of staying in the program I am in due to costs.
It's kind of overwhelming going to college as 1st gen, but it feels like the right first step for me because of why I am in college. I want to be a veterinarian and higher education is simply a necessity, so coming back feels right but overdue, like I am too old to be starting out at my age.
This ties into my biggest fears: Failing out and basically proving certain relatives right, those who said "you don't need any of that" so it pushes me a lot personally to do better and improve myself to ensure my education doesn't take a hit.
I didn't do good in high school, so this feels like a 2nd chance to do things right. I would tell any first-generation students that it's normal to feel overwhelmed and to take it slow, don't do what I did and take on a lot more than you responsibly have time for! Learn the ropes and where resources are, who to go to and where to look. There's a lot more resources than even I know and I work here.
What helps me belong is simply being involved more on campus, even if the specifics aren't exactly beneficial to me personally. I feel it puts my personality to good use and I can help those who need it and might not know where to turn. But also find clubs, groups, hobbies, and areas that you feel comfortable in and enjoy. It both helps foster a sense of belonging but also helps make friends and connections that might be beneficial in the future, so I consider it a win-win to get involved.
Being involved, Helps. I am currently in Student Senate and helping spread the word about BSU. I work in Student Support Services and use my personal experience with those resources and connections to get students the help they need, or at least point them in the right direction. I feel like I belong here if I am able to spread awareness, news about resources, and help others out to the best of my abilities.
I know it sounds cliche but seeing even one person come back happy or visibly improved makes the frustration and tiredness worth it in the end and I've seen many students go back to talk to our resources on campus and leave looking relieved or with direction on what to do next. That alone makes every single thing worth it and makes mee feel like I am right where I am meant to be.
Jerry (Jay) Sirisavath
I came from a background where my parents never had an opportunity to go to college before. They supported me in whatever I did for myself, just as long it is beneficial for me. It took a while and was a journey to realize, but I decided I wanted to pursue something meaningful and achieving in my life. One of things that I believe would help me pursue this path is to enroll in college not only for myself but to be one of the first in my family to become a first-generation college student and make them proud.
Now, to be a first-generation college student to me feels like an accomplishment in itself. A steppingstone towards the path of greatness. I think taking this path is a challenging path for many others, but a path for a better future tomorrow for oneself.
For example, I think of college enrollment as an investment for my future self. An investment that I believe will come back and prosper for my future self the more I work hard for it. Working hard and doing everything that you know will help you in the now is setting up towards achieving a dream that you envision. A dream that takes commitment and those commitments have a true meaning that I define for a better self in the future. We define our meaning based on what we want to achieve and desire.
We all worked hard up to this point, facing adversaries in life and sometimes challenges that deter our path. In many people's cases, it is difficult and not always a simple straight road to be here now. Some others struggle and some don't and to me that's ok! I believe that the most courageous person comes from overcoming hardships and battles to make you the person you are now. When you know you are struggling, just know the outcome will be worth it. The people around you that support your dreams, friends, family, and including yourself, work hard for them. Showing them the meaning that you envision in the future for them, is the best gift you can give back.
Being able to interact with new and different students, including clubs and activities. Being open to learning new opportunities given internally at Minneapolis College. Whether that be people or organizations.
Being a First-Generation Student is a wonderful feeling and makes me very proud. I decided to go to college so that I can create a better future for myself.
The first time I started college, I was 29 years old. I took about 5 years off from school, then decided to go back and complete my associates at Minneapolis College.
As a first-gen student, I would tell other first-gen students that they are amazing! It might sometimes be difficult, especially if you don't have a lot of support, but you can do it! Never give up on achieving your dreams.
A message to late in life first-gen students: There is absolutely no shame in starting later. It’s wonderful that you have chosen to go to school and I am proud of you!
My family came to the US during the war in former Yugoslavia, so growing up I only spoke Bosnian but I learned English when I attended school and yes it was hard and still to this day it’s hard.
Being a first-generation student in college is at first confusing (well for me it was) cause I don’t know how it all works because I don’t have anyone that has experienced college so I have to figure it all out myself.
I decided to go to college because why not? I’m the first in my household to go to college and my parents didn’t come to the US for nothing: they came here to give me a better opportunity in life.
I had many fears but I would tell a first year student, take a deep breath and go with the flow, there’s people here to help you, you are not alone there’s many people here like us.
Being a first-generation college student means a lot to me: we came to the United States during the mid-90s poor from Haiti and my parents hardly spoke English at the time. Despite the language barrier and imperfections, they were committed to understanding English enough to teach their children so that we could excel in our studies.
It’s been 24 years and in 2019, their eldest daughter will be the first in the family to obtain a college education here in the United States of America.
There were lots of ups and downs of course: I experienced homelessness for 5 years and during that time I went through a lot. I originally pursued welding but it wasn’t a true calling from the heart. Through the pain and heartaches I learned that those moments didn’t have to permanent. The struggle can be temporary and there is light at the end of the tunnel...even if you don’t see it right away.
For new first-generation students I tell you this: Your academic career will be a long one but it is worth it. Every hour and exam gaining my capabilities continues to be fruitful. There are no words to describe the feelings of accomplishment I’ve had over these past few years.
I hope you get to experience this as well.
It has been awesome to witness this college go from MCTC to Minneapolis College. What I would tell students is don’t give up. It’s so worth it. There is so much to do on and off campus. And you get to meet lifelong friends. Start slow and ease yourself up.
U got this.
Joshua J. Morrison
Being a first generation college student has been an intellectually challenging experience that I will cherish throughout the rest of my life. Challenging myself every semester has been so rewarding.
I decided to go to college once the resources and time were available for me to focus my undivided attention and utilize every facet available. I would tell a first-generation college student not to give up when classes get stressful, there is light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak.
Lastly, I would encourage students to participate in as many activities and clubs as possible. The lasting relationships and networking will be valuable throughout the rest of their college careers as well as in their respective career fields.
I decided to go to school because I want more: more for my daughter and myself. It has always been a dream of mine to become a doctor and although I know that there is a long journey ahead, I have begun the necessary steps as to following my dreams.
I have goals and it makes me smile to know that I am making progress. I would tell a new first-generation college student that failure is not an option and although you may fail that doesn't make you less of anyone else. No one really talks about failure but in order to succeed you must be willing to fail.
I didn't choose college, it chose me. It was always a part of the plan for my life since grade school but my plans went on a detour after birthing four children in my teen years.
Human Services has been my field of interest for many years and when I was approached with a scholarship opportunity, I thought why not! What's the worst that could happen? I had just lost a son and there's nothing worse than that! My only fear was failing at this age, being a 40-year-old dropout was unacceptable and an embarrassment for the generation behind me.
I would tell all first-generation students what I have learned from many professors as well as students at Minneapolis College is that you are never too old to achieve any goal you put your mind to, and don't stop your educational level unless you have reached the point of satisfaction in your life!
One of the greatest decisions that I made is applying for college after a 30 year gap. Becoming a first-generation college student has opened many doors beyond my highest expectations. On this journey, I have learned more about who I am and what I am capable of. I focused on what was is most important to my parents, which was to get an education.
In March 2015, my place of employment for 20 years shut their doors and relocated out of state. This left me between a rock and a hard place. I could either seek employment as blue collar worker until I retire or pursue an education.
I chose the latter for the reason that I needed a career. What mostly hurt was observing seniors employed in fast food restaurants, standing on their feet for hours flipping hamburgers. I did not want to see myself in that position.
Full of fear, I took the journey, not knowing what to expect. My fear was age, not fitting in with the younger generation, and fear of failing. I applied and became a full time student in the Addiction Counseling program August 2015 here at Minneapolis College. My English 1110 professor insisted that our class apply for TRIO Starting Point. Taking her advice was the second greatest decision on my journey.
TRIO Starting Point and staff have been a guiding light to my academic success. You are and always will be family. I've had the opportunity to meet students and staff of diverse cultures and they have also learned of mine, working together and enhancing our academic skills.
May 2018 I graduated with honors, transferred to Metropolitan State University and am continuing my education to complete my Bachelor’s degree.
As a new first-generation student I would encourage you to ask questions. In each class get a study partner. Build rapport with your professor, they are here to help you. Take advantage of the tutors, and do not wait until a paper is due to ask for help. TRIO Starting Point is a benefit that you have earned by being a first-generation student. Most of all stay focused on your education. Do not let friends distract you from completing what you have started. There will be long nights of studying but do not get discouraged, it's part of learning. If you stick with it, the time goes by fast. Also, remember you have little to no social life as a student. It will pay off. ENJOY THE JOURNEY AND STAY FOCUSED!
The feeling of doing something great, something extra, helping the unknown. Learning new things. What helps me is that I always tell myself that change is good.
Diversity and togetherness, I always feel welcome knowing that am not being pointed out because of my skin color or my accent.
I was a bad boy growing up and I have been in prison a number of times. Use to use drugs daily, But through it all god has saved me. I gave myself to the lord years ago. Never did I imagine he would save my life from down spearing to an outstanding citizen here in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I choose to go back to school to enhance my life and change it around for the good in life. I'm doing just that. I almost have my Associate Arts degree. Through hard studying and staying faithful to god I'm almost there.
I will be the first person in my family to graduate from college. I decided to go back to change my life from bad to good. I used to fear going back to school until I finally did it. I’ve always told my brother college is easier than high school. I know I belong here at Minneapolis College because we never give up and help one another.
I belong here because I'm striving to make that change in life to become a better person.
I decided to enroll in Minneapolis College because my dream of studying at college was always pending. Now that I am a mother of a family. I want to continue with the dream that I have always had and I also want to inspire my family and my children so that they can continue with their studies and have a better quality of life with better job opportunities.
Because Minneapolis College offers many support resources for students, such as technology support, scholarship programs and teachers are always ready to help with homework questions.
I didn’t even know what the term first-generation college student meant when I applied and registered for courses. I was just excited to be moving forward with educating myself and preparing to create a better life.
After struggling with dead-end jobs and a long battle with substance use, going to college was the one thing that I hadn’t tried in hopes of improving my life.
Choosing to pursue a college education seemed easy, but starting my first semester proved challenging. I was 32 years old at the time, and it was an intimidating experience attending my first classes. I felt entirely out of place and wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. I honestly was afraid to reach out to anyone for help.
But that changed once I was introduced to TRIO; those fears and anxieties disappeared because of the support I received. I want to tell a new first-generation college student just starting school not to be afraid to reach out and take advantage of all the support services offered. Show up for a school activity or gathering; you’re going to meet others, so many others who are on similar journeys. Most importantly, YOU attending college is BRAVE & POWERFUL!
What helps me feel like I belong at Minneapolis College is staying connected by meeting with my advisor regularly, engaging with my professors and other staff who empower me to succeed. Also attending school functions and meeting my fellow peers helps me tremendously.
As a first-generation college student, I was excited and hopeful. I wanted to go to college to accomplish three things: achieve my aspirations, use my learnings to motivate others as well as to serve my community effectively. I would tell a new first-generation student not to fear, but to be courageous.
The education and other experiences that I got from Minneapolis College, helped me in reaching where I am today!
I come from a poor working-class family, my father was literally born on a dairy farm and my mother barely graduated high school. I know the taste of free government issued cheese and peanut butter, always had the free lunch tickets in school, and was mocked once by a teacher for wearing torn jeans, though they were the only pair I had. I have worked since I was 11 years old, delivering papers, working on farms, doing construction work, food service work, and anything I could to earn money.
I was always interested in computers and bought my first one, a Commodore Vic20, with paper route money in spring of 1982. While I taught myself everything I could learn about that computer, I knew that if I wanted to learn more, I needed to go to college. I also knew I would need to pay for it myself, so I decided to join the National Guard to help pay for school. I became a combat veteran in the Persian Gulf War and am thankful for all the assistance my involvement with the military provided me as it allowed me to become a college graduate.
Being a first-generation student, I knew nothing about going to college and made many mistakes as a result. After a semester “off,” from being suspended due to poor grades, which I turned into a nine-month internship, I finally graduated with a B.S. in Electrical Computer Engineering and later went on to get my Masters in Business Administration with a focus on Technology Management. I had a successful 20+ year career in research and high-performance computing, administering and building supercomputers, and was a Director at the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. I've been teaching at Minneapolis College since January of 2018.
That journey through college is hard, especially when no one around you can help show you the way, and when you're working more hours than you're going to school. I was always afraid I would run out of money and not be able to complete my dream.
My advice to any first-generation students is to find someone in your life who's been through it to talk to, share experiences, understand all that goes on, and, most importantly, to tell you, “It's going to be hard.” Many first-gen students get to the hard parts and think they aren't "good enough" and drop out. The real truth is that college is hard, and is supposed to be hard, and if you know that, you can hold on to your dream, refocus on your goals, and get through it. Hard work and a solid commitment will allow you to do anything you set your mind to!
I was 17 my first semester in college and totally freaked out. My family was very supportive, but I entered college during a frustrating time when women were restricted from many majors. I wanted to study Architecture, but was told, "the 5% quota of women has been filled. Please apply again next year." Advisers actively discouraged me from math and science.
Women had 3 choices: education, nursing, or interior design, so I picked interior design.
However, interior design was not a good fit, so I struggled my first 2 years and dropped out during my second year. I missed my family and couldn't take the courses I really wanted, so I went home. My family was very supportive and encouraged me to go back, which I did a couple of semesters later, and I majored in education.
I had to work part-time while at school which required me to really focus on school when I was not at work. Juggling work, my homework, studying, and social life was a challenge. My last year in college, I earned a scholarship that allowed me to teach and earn a salary under the supervision of a master teacher while earning my final credits for my teaching degree and license. Although I didn't get paid as much as a fully qualified teacher, and I had to teach and take classes at the same time, that scholarship helped a lot. My family supported me all the way through, and my grandma gave me her old car that last year so I could get to and from the school where I was teaching and not be late for my classes on campus.
Based on that experience, I would encourage first-gen students to develop supportive relationships with teachers and advisers every semester even when feeling shy about doing that. These are the folks who helped me find the scholarship and allowed me to finish my degree. Today, that scholarship would be similar to a paid one-year internship. They are difficult to find, so networking with those who can help is critically important. Teachers are often the most connected in their field to help students find help all along the way. Here at Minneapolis College, our Career Service Center can also play a really big role in helping students begin networking and learn how to build and develop those relationships.
Political Science & Global Studies and Center for Teaching & Learning (CTL) Consultant
Education was always a priority in our family, and there was an unspoken expectation that my twin sister and I would both go to college. This, in spite of the fact that our father only completed 6th grade and our mother was a high school graduate. Our father served in the Navy and retired in Japan, where he met our mother who is Japanese.
Even while growing up in Japan, we had our sights set on the University of California. Fast forward to 11th grade where our parents were divorced, we were poor, and there was no money for college or even applications. We could apply to only one school, and my twin sister and I both set our sights on UCLA. But high school counselor told us not to bother applying to a 4-year university; maybe take a look at the local junior college, she said. Our determination and tenacity led to us ignoring that counselor. We both applied and were accepted to UCLA. Looking back, I wonder how we navigated the process, especially since we lacked cultural capital; things that were obvious to classmates whose parents had gone to college and understood the ins and outs of the entire experience were oblivious to us.
Everything from the complexities of the application process and letters of recommendation to the process of applying for financial aid and finding a place to live (what are dorms?). We didn't even know what questions to ask to uncover knowledge about things we were completely unaware of. Still, we are grateful that the pursuit of education and the opportunities it might offer was a priority while growing up.
I'm please to share that both my twin sister and I have earned Masters degrees, and more recently, our mother earned her Bachelors degree, one class at a time at the age of 72. We are all continuing to engage in lifelong learning, and hope our stories resonate with those seeking educational opportunities. For additional reference, please feel free to check out an article that appears in the Twin Cities Pioneer Press - Caryn Sullivan: ‘I’m 50 years old now and I’m still thinking about that high school counselor.’
As I share with my students at semester start, I chose to teach at a community college. Why? Well, my lifelong dream was to become an educator; my favorite aunt was a teacher. Also, my mother's path to earning her Bachelors degree at age 72 started with course at the local community college to learn English. I saw the benefits of open access and the impact it had on her academic journey.
When I transitioned to teaching after a 25-year career in the military. I walked onto the Minneapolis College campus for an interview and immediately felt a sense of belonging. The energy of the city, the chatter of students, and the diversity of the campus community were all key elements. After 10+ years now at Minneapolis college, what helps me to feel like I belong are the sense of community, connections with colleagues, and the opportunity to learn from and with students, staff, and faculty. I appreciate the opportunity to be of service....
Early Childhood Education Faculty
I actually excelled in high school and graduated top of my class. I then went on to college and got lost for a while. It seemed like the advisors and even the faculty were speaking a different language. It was hard to have no one in my home life to go to for help. It took me 9 years going to school on and off to earn my 4-year degree. I truly wished I would have started at a 2-year college to get a better start to my academic journey. My husband encouraged me to finally finish my degree and it went so well that last year, I have now gone on and earned 2 masters degrees.
I see myself in my students. For many years I taught the first-year experience course on Strategies to Succeed at College. It helped that I had been in many of their shoes. I also feel like having had to work my way through school as many of my educations students are doing allows me to be relatable. I share my struggles in my academic journey and let them know that if I can make it through - they can as well. Hopefully knowing I am here to translate all the academia speak they hear so it will not take them 9 years for their 4-year degree!
As a first-generation college student, you're paving the way for others to follow--siblings as well as your own children, so of course, being the first to do something is always scary. But remember why you're here: to better your life and your family's, and to learn. Lots of us here at Minneapolis College are first gens, too, and we're eager to help you. My advice is to visit every one of your teachers at least once in their office to get to know them. If you're comfortable with the teacher, you're more likely to ask questions, and that's how we all learn!
The people--faculty, staff, students.
I didn't receive much guidance about choosing a college or deciding on a career. In fact, my high school guidance counselor told me (as she shook her finger at me) that she would 'take me over her knee' if I went into education because at the time, teaching jobs were scarce. That left me lost since I had always wanted to be a teacher.
And when I got to the University of Minnesota, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of it having grown up in a small town on the Iron Range in northern Minnesota. I remember crying daily for the first few months that I was there.
I believe that community colleges are a great place to start post-secondary education. Minneapolis College offers quality instructors in a diverse community and is greatly affordable. I specifically wanted to work here because of the diversity on campus.
I feel comfortable at Minneapolis College with so much diversity on campus.
Sagrario Alejandra Torres Flores
When I graduated from the University of Minnesota, I decorated my cap to read, "They migrated, so I graduated," to honor the dedication, love, and persistence of my parents to ensure I was afforded the opportunities that they were not.
There is an unspoken, perhaps self-inflicted, pressure in being first gen. I felt lucky to have been accepted to the University of Minnesota; I felt like the school was doing me a favor in accepting me because I felt like I didn't fit the profile of a student who "should" be going to a school like the University of Minnesota. I knew nothing about the college experience, or what a "major" or "minor" was; I didn't know what resources I could expect to find, and I didn't know what opportunities I would need to be looking for—I had never heard of "internships" or "networking" before.
To be completely honest, I don't think I truly understood what college was. I didn't know that I was going to need to choose a specific area of study; after my first college fair, I had an existential crisis because suddenly I understood that the world was increasingly demanding a degree for a well-paying job. How was I to choose a degree? I had navigated school trying to excel in every subject area, not even thinking about where my interests aligned. Outside of school, my job was to help my family; I tutored my brother in school, translated for my parents at student-teacher conferences, revised cover letters and resumes, prepped my parents for job interviews, and prided myself in being a "low-maintenance child" while my father worked towards being naturalized.
It wasn't until my father was deported when I was in middle school that I opened my eyes to the reality of our situation, and the need to go to school. If I wanted to support my family and break the cycle of poverty that runs rampant in communities of color, especially immigrant communities, I had no choice but to aim high-- there was no question about it, I was going to college.
High School didn't allow me to explore extracurriculars as much as I would've liked. I thought I was strategic in taking college-level courses in high school, so when I started college, I could jump into major-specific courses. While I didn’t start college with a declared major, I bought myself time to explore different disciplinary studies.
I am currently fresh out of college and finding meaning in my college experience. My parents are excited for me, and at the same time hold some concern: they, like me, understand that opportunities for exploration and mistake-making aren't a luxury we are always afforded.
Being first gen feels like a solitary experience, but it is truly a shared journey between a student and their family. Looking forward, I know the interwoven feelings of frustration and pride will help me better support my family and friends who are navigating the processes of higher education for the first time.
My piece of advice to other first-generation students: Be patient with yourself. You are navigating uncharted territory, and if you can, let yourself be okay with not having all the answers. It’s okay to not know, but don’t think you’re doing it all on your own.
The students I work with: It's validating to talk about similar and shared experiences, and to foster a community around these experiences.
When I was considering applying to colleges, I did not really know where to start. My parents were very supportive of my efforts but could offer only limited guidance. I relied mostly on the suggestions of friend’s guidance offered at my high school, which was limited. I kept my search fairly local and eventually applied to three schools in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin. I chose the school I did, almost exclusively because it felt comfortable. When I toured the other three schools on my list, they felt large, overwhelming and like I would be anonymous. I ultimately chose where I went to school because on our tours, I met students who seemed like me, and were being successful.
When I got to school, I continued to rely on what felt comfortable. There were so many questions I had about how to be a student, what made someone successful as a student and where I might fit into the campus and culture. All of these questions were answered by searching for and meeting the right people. I began to realize that the school I attended had a host of offices and people who were there to support my journey. I became curious and did everything I could get involved myself in student groups and get to know as many people as I could.
This leads to advice I would give to other first gen students. If you feel school is right for you, and you feel you're at the right school, that is a great start and enough. You don't have to have everything figured out, just know where to start. There are offices and people dedicated entirely to helping you navigate the journey.
People and spaces. Ultimately, it's people where I find belonging. Space is important, too. How spaces are set up, if they feel welcoming, are they accessible and safe, are all important considerations but it’s the people that I interact with and what they represent that is paramount.
Sharon Pierce, President
Being a first-generation college student felt like navigating without a compass. Attending college was never a question, it was something my mother expected us to do. I was not afraid, although I knew things were stacked against me, I was confident and determined to succeed.
Being successful requires resilience, determination, and hard work. There are many resources available today, be sure to access them.
Tara Stormoen Martinez, Director of Student Life
As the first in my immediate family to attend and then graduate from college, it was exciting and a little scary. You truly "do not know what you do not know." Unfortunately, I did not receive great advice when I started my first year. I took a really tough 5-credit Math class, along with 13 other credits and I worked 20+ hours/week. I didn't do so well my first semester, lost a scholarship, switched majors from Engineering to Business and then worked hard to graduate with a 3.0+ GPA.
I look back at my trials and triumphs and am so thankful for the mentors and guides that I did have in college, those who were able to coach me along my journey. I take pride in serving in a similar way, for Minneapolis College students!
Julie Poyzer, Director of Career Services
My dad never finished high school while my mom took a few college classes. My mom is originally from the Philippines, where life is a bit more challenging with less resources and opportunities.
In addition, my mom was a single mom with limited resources after she separated from my dad. Growing up, my mom has always encouraged me to pursue a college education to avoid working factory jobs and to inspire to do something that truly matters. She knew that a college education would be important not just for me, but for my entire family.
So, I pursued my college education knowing it will be impactful for me and my family, as it would provide us with additional resources we may need along the way.
I initially started my college education at a 2 year community college and then transferred to complete my Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Science in Counseling and Student Personnel at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
During my college career, I was a member and participated in TRIO-SSS and McNair Scholars Program. Both programs provided me with resources such as community support and visiting universities and conferences.
I am a proud first generation college graduate, the first in my immediate family to achieve a bachelor’s and master’s degree. I know the resources along the way were definitely beneficial to my path to success. So, my advice to current and future college students is to utilize as many resources you can, as it can only help you pave your path to success!
Evelyn Gonzalez, Administrator
Being a daughter of an immigrant mother who did not have the opportunity to go to school makes being a first-generation college student so much more special for me, because growing up having to do most of the things for my mom that required reading, made me realize how important going to school was.
I quickly recognized that without an education I would find myself having to do the same as my mother did. Working multiple jobs, never really making an impact. I was determined to make it, give myself the opportunity to go to college.
It was not as simple as I originally thought as many life events occurred that kept me from going full-time and my fear was that I would not have the ability to afford it, let alone finish. Working full-time and at a time working 2 jobs, I would tell a new first-generation student that if it’s in your heart and you make it a goal, there is nothing that can stop you from earning your degree.
The sky is the limit and that everything is possible when you put your mind to it.
Mary Jo Dahl, TRIO Starting Point, Assistant Director
Being a first-generation college student was exciting and scary. I was told most of my life college wasn't for me, I should just find a job and work. I decided to go to college because I knew I wanted to do more with my life and help people, and college seemed like the right path to that goal. I had many fears, but my biggest fear was people finding out I had no idea what I was doing and that I didn't really belong in college.
Though that fear followed me all the way through graduate school, I never let it stop me.
I would tell first-gen students to use the resources available to them, and not to let their fear paralyze them. There are a lot of us who have been in similar situations, and we want to help.
Julie Vang, TRIO Starting Point Administrative Assistant
It felt really great being a first-generation college student and a model for my children. I went to college because I wanted a better future for me and my kids. I wanted to better my future in something I like and something that I can do for the rest of my life. I did not want to work in a company as an assembly worker.
However, along the way when I was in college, I struggled with the fear that I would never finish college - ever. This fear kept going even as I got closer and closer to graduating.
Once graduated, I felt more confident in myself that if I can do this, anyone can.
So, my advice to new first-generation student is that you can do this.
If you get lost and confused, you can always come in to TRIO Starting Point to ask for advice or talk to your TRIO advisor and they will help guide your way. Also, don't be afraid to ask for help, even if it's the dumbest question. That can mean much to others.
Best of Good Luck and you can do this.
Nardos Senbeta, Director, TRIO EOC
I have grown up listening to my parents about the importance of education. As a result, when I got the chance to come to the USA as an international student to pursue higher education, I was very excited and nervous at the same time.
Leaving everything I have known all my life and coming to a new country, language and culture was very scary. I'd tell a first generation student to commit and stick to their commitment to their education. It is inevitable that life will be difficult at times but hard work and perseverance always pays off.
I have started at Minneapolis College, then transferred to Augsburg University for my bachelor's degree. Later, I have received my master's degree from Minnesota State University.
Lindsey Towler, TRIO EOC Office Coordinator
No, life was about growing up, getting a job, and getting out of our parents’ house. College was not talked about in my home and it was the least of my family's priorities when dealing with real life issues like housing, transportation, employment, alcohol and drug use. I always thought college was for rich people, the suburban people.
Then I met my amazing supervisor at Subway, Joseph Brundige and he saw my potential. He said, “Why can’t you finish high school, why can’t you go to college, why not you?” With his encouragement, I realized that I can be the 1st person in my family to go to college and no matter how many life problems blocked my path...I did it!
My advice to future first-generation college students is life lessons and tragedy will always come and go but if you keep getting up, you can finish college.