Celebrating First-Generation Students

Author: Carroll University

Published Date: 11/8/2019

Categories: Alumni Faculty and Staff Social Students

First-Generation College Celebration

Carroll recognizes and celebrates those who were pioneers in their own families.

first-generation college celebration
In 2017, the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), in partnership with the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA and The Suder Foundation, celebrated the inaugural First-Generation College Celebration on November 8 with an event on Capitol Hill. 

This date marks the 54th anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Higher Education Act (HEA), which has helped millions of first-generation, low-income/under-resourced students persist to degree completion. Recognizing first-generation college students resonates with Carroll University President Cindy Gnadinger, who was also a first-generation student:
“I was motivated to be the first in my family to attend college because I dreamed of becoming a teacher from the time I started school as a child. My best advice to other first generation students is to understand that college has its ups and downs but you can get through it, so never give up.  Many of us had our own moments where we felt we couldn’t get through the challenges. If you feel that way, take it day by day and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance, if you need it. There are many people ready and willing to assist you. You are not alone on this journey!”
To learn more about the 2019 First-Generation College Celebration visit, bit.ly/CelebrateFirstGen19.

You can also see our stories on Instagram with the hashtag #FirstGenPio.
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√Āngela Campos '22

"My parents motivated me to attend college since I was young. My parents were only able to attend school to the secondary level as they had to take care of their family from a young age. They have always worked hard for myself and siblings to provide us the opportunities and schooling they were never able to obtain. They have always told us college was a privilege. My parents have always told us that no matter what, education is the one thing that nobody can take away. They are the reason I work so effortlessly. I cannot wait for the day when I am able to walk across the graduation stage and make their dreams come true."

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Karen Mendez-Avila '20

"The sacrifices my parents have made motivated me to go to college. I want to be able to return the favor one day, and achieving a higher education is one of the best ways to do so."

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Kally Dey '20

"My older sister went to the military before entering college, so I navigated the process alone. It was my high school biology teacher, Laura Turner, who inspired me to pursue a post-secondary education. She saw a spark in me and guided me towards fulfilling my potential as a student and individual. She has since passed from cancer, though her wise words and influence remain with me today. To our first generation students, my biggest piece of advice is to seek genuine and meaningful connections. The more people you meet, the more opportunities you have and the greater your experience will be – I guarantee it!"

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"My parents motivated me to go to college. Actually, they made me (and my siblings, too). We didn’t have a choice. We all came to Carroll to fulfill their dream of having all five of their children attend college, something they did not have the privilege of doing. My dad went as far as 3rd grade in Mexico and my mother 11th grade. My advice to students is to continue to work hard. Many others do not have this privilege and so many others have sacrificed their lives for the opportunities we have now. You are worth it, you are strong, you are a Pioneer."

Dolores Ocampo Brown '99, Office of Alumni Engagement
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"My first month as a student at Carroll came with a $300 phone bill for my mother accepting the collect calls from a tearful freshman. I became a fast friend of the payphone. It was a hard transition, and as a first-generation student, there was no one at home who knew what this was like, no one to help prepare me for this confusing journey. What helped me was connecting with someone on campus who cared: that was the admission counselor who recruited me. He had an open door when I needed to talk, helped me work through my homesickness, and provided sound advice to help me figure out this new way of college life."
Linda Spice '89 and '19, Office of Alumni Engagement
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"Most of my motivation stemmed from a strong desire to be self-sufficient, establish financial security and nurture my full potential. Although I didn’t know much about what the post-secondary process would look like, I knew a college education could help me achieve these goals, and equip me with the knowledge, skills and opportunities I needed to effectively pursue what I was most passionate about. My advice to first-generation students at Carroll is to stop by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion! Your future is important to us and we take pride in providing you with information, resources and support to successfully navigate your college career."

Vanessa Topczewski (Perez) '99, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
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“Neither of my parents graduated from high school. My brother and I both graduated from college and I went on to get my Master’s and Ph.D. My family encouraged me to go to college and my high school counselor had a lot to do with which college I chose. She knew I would do better at a small college with a lot of opportunities to interact with faculty (she was right!). My best advice for first-generation students is to find a mentor who you trust who can help you navigate the system of higher education. It can be confusing – but people are here to help if you just reach out.”

Susan Lewis, Professor of Biology and Marine Biology
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“I had always loved learning, but came from a poor background and never saw college as a possibility until I was in my 20s. I knew people who went to college, I thought I was capable of doing so, and I was tired of doing manual labor. College is hard, particularly when you come from a background where most people don't go on for more education past high school. It's easy to feel that you don't fit in, that the work is too much, too expensive, and you're just plain tired. I get that. I was a high school dropout who was a single parent, working full time, and going to school full time as an undergrad. But you can do it if you want it badly enough.

Scott Hendrix, Associate Professor of History
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Jennaca Zaccaria '23

"Growing up I saw how hard my parents worked to make sure we always had food on the table and a place to keep us warm and dry, which I am forever grateful for. But always wished I could make it easier. My mom often talks about how she has lived a life she is proud of, but her one regret is not going to college. After I finish my undergrad, I plan on attending grad school to pursue a masters degree in library and information science."

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Mia OBerto '22

"I was motivated to go to college to be able to thank my parents for all they have given me in my life and to be able to provide for them and give back to them once I am older."

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Nicole Scrima '16

"There is no better way to lead than by example. Being a first generation college student is a fantastic learning experience, and although it can be a challenge at times, walking across that stage was one of the most incredible feelings I have ever experienced. I am proud to be a part of the pioneer family and am now working towards my master’s."

woman smiling

Sierra Grubor '22

"My parents always pushed me towards the college route because they didn’t get the chance to go to college. I have enjoyed getting the opportunity to meet so many people and being around them every day, including my softball teammates, coaches and professors."

woman smiling

Dawn Scott '98 and '17, Office of Admissions

"I am from a small town and always felt like there was more to do, more to learn and more to give. I wanted to break the cycle and be different – but always stay true to who I am. To my fellow first-generation students: You can do this! First generation – makes you a pioneer. The first to achieve something, but the one who keeps it going. I strongly believe that working hard, staying positive, making good choices and asking for help will provide you with the skills needed to be successful."

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Maribel Aguilar '23

"My motivations to become the first in my family to attend college include to be someone my siblings look up to, to accomplish my parents goals through me, and to further my education in order to care for others."

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