First-Generation College Student Celebration
Below are profiles of first-generation college students who have attended or are working here at Minneapolis College.
Dear First-Generation College Students:
You are courageous, resilient, creative problem solvers. Being the first in your families to attend college means you are a trailblazer, perhaps even a beacon of hope and role model. Being a first-generation college student can be challenging, in addition to course work, there is a lot to learn. Navigating the complexity of college systems can be scary. The social distancing measures that enable us to operate safely during the COVID-19 Pandemic have added to the complexity.
We recognize the challenges many first-generation college students typically experience may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. But, every journey to new place is easier with a travel guide and road map. Minneapolis College has many resources to aid your journey; I encourage you to take advantage of all the services available to you.
Many of our faculty and staff are first-generation college students, we see ourselves in you. We know what it is like to juggle jobs, family responsibilities and college. The challenges are real, but so are the opportunities. As a first-generation college student, I struggled with the seemingly cloaked administrative structure of the university I attended. One connection with one administrator made the difference in my success. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help if needed, and don’t be afraid to be the help someone else may need. Encourage yourselves and one another.
The National First-Generation College Student Celebration honors the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Higher Education Act was designed to help minority, low-income, and first-generation students access education opportunities they had been previously denied. Minneapolis College is proud that twenty-six percent of our students are first-generation. Thank you for choosing us, it is a privilege to be part of your journey.
Dr. Sharon J. Pierce
I felt very lost being a first-generation college student, and I had a lot of self doubt. I feared I would not finish or wouldn't be able to keep up with the work. I was determined to change my family's future and start a new path for my children.
I decided to go to Minneapolis College because of the graduation rate for the degree, my connection to pathways, as well as the location. I would tell a new first generation college student not to give up and this is the bravest decision you've made to chase your dreams
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!
Neither of my parents attended college: my dad is a Vietnam war vet who went into trucking when he got home and my mom worked briefly in retail before she married and had children. Then became a stay at home mom. They stayed in the small town they both grew up in and raised their children there.
I couldn't wait to get out.
There was no question for me, the way for me to get out of small town life was to go to college. I knew it would be hard work but I didn't realize how much it would shape the person I am today.
College not only gave me an education but opportunities to try things I would have never thought I'd enjoy. It helped me be independent and figure who I was as a person. I worked hard to be an example to my children, to teach them that education is important, not just to get to well-paying job but to open your mind and have a greater understanding of our world.
I would tell a new first-gen student that it's going to be hard and you may doubt that you can do it, but you can and you will. Even if no one seems to be supportive or proud of you for what you are doing, keep doing. You have what it takes and you can do it.
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.
I come from a big family, and I mean BIG family. None of them went to school, let alone college. As a first-gen college student, I had a lot of challenges, I still do. My peers don't seem to understand anything about college and that means I'm not getting the support I need from them. They challenge me often, but that focuses the need for my studies. That’s a brief story about me.
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.
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!
I come from a poor working class family, knowing the taste of government issued cheese and peanut butter, always having free lunch tickets in school, and was mocked once by a teacher in high school 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 joined the Army National Guard as a means to pay for college, became a combat veteran in the Persian Gulf War, and am thankful for all of the assistance my involvement with the military provided me as it allowed me to finish school and become a college graduate.
That journey is hard, when no one around you can help show you the way, 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.
However, hard work and 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.
My father was literally born on a dairy farm and my mother barely graduated high school. I was always interested in computers and bought my first one, a Commodore Vic20, with paper route money in spring of 1982. I knew that if I wanted to learn more, I needed to go to college. Coming from a poor working-class family, I decided to join the National Guard to pay my way through school.
I earned a B.S. in Electrical Computer Engineering and 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, ending as a Director at the University of Minnesota Supercomputing Institute. I've been teaching at Minneapolis College for a year now.
I knew nothing about going to college and made many mistakes as a result. My advice to any first-gen student 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 hang out, buckle down, and get through it.
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.
I was neither encouraged nor discouraged by my parents to attend college. If I was to be successful in attaining a degree, it would be due to the support of others at college as well as my own determination. I was fortunate to have attended a junior college where staff and faculty saw me as more than a number. Knowing that I could ask for help and then getting the help I needed was crucial to my persistence.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My dad was a blue-collar, tool & die maker who always wanted to go to college, but marriage, WWII and kids kept him off campuses. His influence motivated me to apply to 3 big national colleges but I ended up going to a small college in Northfield, Minnesota because they gave me the most money. It still cost my parents $200/month to pay for my college after the grants and loans were figured in. Back then, that monthly $200 was a good week's pay. Only now do I realize what a large, financial sacrifice my parents made to send me to college.
I did graduate but didn't find any calling in college other than "I want to travel."
My college experience did end up giving me my first big promotion in the working world. That college required all students to speak a foreign language. I was able to leverage that college language requirement to transfer to Europe after only working a year at an international photography company. I traveled all over northern Europe while living in Germany.
I wanted to do more than just photography, so I went back to school for a Master's in Journalism. And here I am as a webmaster.
Today would not be possible without my education. It even led me to marry the daughter of a tool & die maker and both my daughters speak German.