#UMNFirst Stories

Share your #UMNFirst story and photo to be added below!

Kaylee Myhre Errecaborde's Story

Public Policy PhD, DVM and Faculty

I am a product of great determination. Growing up, I never left the house without hearing my father tell me to ‘study hard.’ My father went to trade school and my mother never went to college but they both knew the value of education and they never doubted my abilities. They joke now that I took My father’s advice too seriously. I’ve since gone on to attain an undergraduate degree in biology and later followed my lifelong passion to become a doctor of veterinary medicine. But my education didn’t end there. Recognizing the need for policies that bridge the gap between human and animal diseases (e.g. rabies, avian influenza, and Ebola to name a few), I went on to work for the US Congress as an American Association of Science fellow. I now work for the World Health Organization and am still studying! I’m excited to announce that I’ll defend my PhD in public policy with the Humphrey School of Public Affairs this December. More good work to do and one day I’ll tell my children to study hard too.

Luciano Guzman's Story

Staff Member

I was a first-generation college student and had it not been for support from college access programs (like TRiO Upward Bound) and admissions counselors during high school, I would not have had such a great education. I was just as unaware of how to navigate the application process as my family, thought financial aid was a fairy-tale, and did not know how to prepare in high school to apply to selective institutions. Had it not been for these college access mentors and advising team, I would not have realized that the hard-work I put into high school could translate to scholarships and admission to anywhere but National American University (which I only knew about from the catchy jingle in TV commercials growing up.) Appreciating the doors that they opened for me, I promised myself I would eventually take on a role of some sort that would allow me to be that eye-opening person for other first-generation students.

In college I worked supported first-generation students and coordinated college access programming for non-profits throughout the Twin Cities. I now work in admissions because I love helping others through this journey and have a lot of pride in saying I work for an institution striving to make its education more accessible to students of all socio-economic backgrounds.

It makes me happy to hear students openly discuss this aspect of their educational journeys. I see more and more programming in place to help first-generation students realize that, while their identity inherently consists of overcoming obstacles, it is one to wear with pride and recognize the significance of how far we have come. Being a first-generation graduate is a significant accomplishment and one showcasing the motivation, drive, and potential of everyone in our community!

Erika Sanborne's Story

Graduate Student

In spite of growing up in poverty, mostly raised by my grandparents, I stumbled into admission to the University of Massachusetts Lowell, as a Math major, and I attended for a couple years, went through a period of homelessness, and then enlisted in the military and served four years active duty. I’m grateful for those four years away, because they gave me space to get perspective and find what would be grounding for me. I also took what were called “correspondence courses” back in the early 1990s while I was active duty, which involved writing papers and mailing them to faculty who would mail them back, graded, weeks later.

After my discharge from the United States Coast Guard, I returned¬ to University of Massachusetts Lowell, grateful for the in-state tuition waiver for veterans, and I earned my BLA and my first Master’s Degree there. My next stop was to respond to a call to ministry, and I earned my Master of Divinity degree from Andover Newton Seminary at Yale Divinity School, formerly Andover Newton Theological School. I worked as a high school math teacher and carried a heavy course load teaching as Senior Adjunct faculty at UMass Lowell, which together allowed me to pay my tuition as I completed that second Master’s degree.

Today, at the age of 45, I’m fortunate enough to be a PhD student here in the Sociology Department, which is incredible. I’m very grateful for my life and for this current leg of the journey here at the University of Minnesota.


Korrina Griffith's Story

Academic Advisor

I grew up knowing I wanted to go to college thanks to my grandpa. He instilled a lifelong desire to learn in me and he wanted to make sure I had a different life, a better life. From the time I was probably about 5 years old, my goal was to be a student at the University of Minnesota one day. So, I worked. I worked and worked and worked as hard as I could academically to achieve my goal of college. After my grandpa passed away, I started to work even harder because I wanted to be sure to create that better life for myself that he wanted for me. I remember finally getting to the time I was filling out the application and how excited I was. I remember the day that I received my acceptance letter! It was a life-changing moment. I accomplished my goal of being a college graduate and now I am starting my career. Also, I am in grad school now too! Which is definitely thanks to all my wonderful resources at the U since I would have had no idea where to even start if I didn't have people on my team, hoping to see me succeed.

Angelina Dimitrov's Story

Undergrad Student

Growing up, I lived in a single-parent home where I watched my mother work tirelessly day in and day out at her job, trying to make ends meet for my brother and I. Money was always tight, and even as a young elementary school student, my conscience was usually consumed by thoughts of what would happen if my mom couldn’t pay the bills on time.

When I was finally old enough to work my first job, my primary focus became working as much as possible at my part time job so I could help out financially at home. At the time, the thought of going to a 4-year university or attaining a bachelor's degree seemed nearly impossible until I was a sophomore in high school, and I was given the opportunity to take classes for college credit from a local community college. It was then I realized my love for academia, and when the idea of going to college seemed a little more tangible. With the help of my teachers, mom, and step-dad along the way, I became incredibly motivated (and supported) in my pursuit towards a higher education.

As a second-year student now at the University of Minnesota, I am still motivated by my mom and step-dad, day-in and day-out. While the road here has not been easy, I have remained optimistic about my future as a first-generation student because of the additional support I have received from my advisors, professors, friends, etc. I am so incredibly #FirstGenProud, and am excited to finally have a platform to be sharing my #UMNFirst story!

Jessie Behr's Story

Academic Advisor

I think one of the biggest challenges in being a first-generation college student is not knowing what you don't know, and not knowing the questions to ask. This was true for me when I was a college student, and it's sometimes still true now that I'm an academic advisor. It's OK to be vulnerable and lean on others to help you navigate your college experience—especially your advisor; that's what we're here for! Always ask questions, even if your question is, "How do I know which questions to ask?"

Glenda Pereira's Story

Graduate Student

Neither of my parents have a high school diploma, which was common when they were teenagers in the Azores, Portugal during the late 1980's. My dad finished the 4th grade and went to help on the family dairy farm full-time, and my mom did not complete high school as she preferred to work full-time. I moved to the U.S. when I was 10 and have been blessed to pursue an education. I have a B.S., an M.S. and in 2 years I will have a Ph.D. all in Animal Science. While my parents do not have diplomas, they have been fundamental in supporting me along the many many years of higher education. Graduate school is tough, but hearing my mom say "you can do it" are words of encouragement that makes graduate school easier. Without my parents, my mentors, my friends and family I could not be where I am today! I am #FirstGenProud thanks to my mom and my dad.

Sabrina Chu's Story

Undergrad Student

My parents came here with a dream for a better life for them and their kids. I wanted to honor their dream as well as live out my dream to pursue a medical degree to help others in need. Education has played a huge part of my life and my parents have instilled that value into me as a first gen student because I am pushing boundaries and pioneering new territory where they were not able to before.

Geida Cleveland's Story

Staff Member

I'm proud to be a first generation student! My family moved to Minnesota from Mexico when I was 12 and I didn't know a word of English. My uncle brought my cousins and I to the University one day on the way to the state fair and from that moment I said out loud " this is where I'm going to go to school one day". What I didn't know was the challenges that would mean in order to get here. Not only am I now a proud alumni but also a proud member of the U of M staff for over 10 years. Go Gophers!

Ann Meier's Story

Faculty Member

My mom worked as a nurse's aide, and my dad worked as a prison guard -- neither went to college. These were middle class jobs when I was growing up in the 1980s. We lived very frugally, but in a great school district where most families had more resources and the school expected most students to go to college. I followed that expectation and enrolled at the George Washington University on a combo of merit and need-based aid. I worked part-time during high school and throughout my undergraduate career and full time in the summers. I went home once a year, and it got harder every year as I drifted further from my roots. I got my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin-Madison -- the first Ph.D. in my extended family. Everyone is proud of me, and I am proud of myself. It is sometimes difficult to truly fit in anywhere, though.

Sammi Boring's Story

Undergrad Student

My mom and dad both always wanted the best for me. When I was in 3rd grade my dad passed away and I always wanted to do something to honor who he was as a person. I chose to go into journalism to pursue television news reporting because my dad was always known for never knowing a stranger and someone that taught me talking all of the time is okay. I'm using my voice to create a career, so that I will always have him with me.

Dila Theodora's Story

Undergrad Student

Growing up, my parents expected a lot from me, academically. They never forced me to go to college, but I saw the immense value of higher education. I wanted to go to college to relieve my parents from the stress of having to provide for the family, and I hope to do that with an education in the US where I can build better connections and learn business from the best. As a firs generation college student, I am unable to use my parents as a reference for questions about college. I had to face the challenges and discover the answers by myself. Even so, my parents are always supportive and I am lucky to meet a lot of people who are willing to help me throughout my college journey. I am always motivated to seek for opportunities to learn and grow. I am #FirstGenProud!

Hamy Huynh's Story

Undergrad Student

As an immigrant, I struggled to assimilate into American society. I spoke fluent Vietnamese at home and didn’t know a word of English before I entered preschool. In elementary school, I was enrolled in the English Language Learners (ELL) program. While most kids in my class had an hour of recess or quiet reading time, I went into a separate classroom and learned English with other students who spoke English as a second language. My separation from the other students made me anxious and spurred me to learn English quickly in order to graduate from the ELL program as soon as possible. With perseverance and determination, I studied hard, graduated the ELL program in the 3rd grade (which was two years earlier than my peers!), and got A’s all the way through middle and high school without any help from my family members.

By the eleventh grade, I signed myself up for the ACT and bought numerous textbooks to prepare for the exam which would determine where I would be able to attend college. By the twelfth grade, I filled out my own FAFSA and sent out my college applications. I was lucky to have supportive teachers and friends who answered questions I had about college. Without their guidance, I probably wouldn’t have been accepted to all three of the schools I applied to! In the end, the choice was obvious for me. I wanted to attend the University of Minnesota to pursue higher education because it was close to home and offered me the most grants and scholarships.

I am now a senior studying Strategic Communications with an emphasis on public relations. During the past few years that I’ve attended the University of Minnesota, I’ve had the opportunity of interning for ServeMinnesota and Fast Horse, served as the President of the Vietnamese Student Association of Minnesota, and work as the Media Director for CLAgency (a student-led communications agency on campus) and as the Digital Marketing Assistant for the College of Liberal Arts.

For many people like myself, attending college isn’t easy, but I hope that my story can inspire others to also pursue higher education without the fear that it’s impossible. As a Vietnamese immigrant attending a Big 10 institution, I am not just living proof of a brighter future for my family, I am proof that people can succeed as a first-generation college student. I am #FirstGenProud!

Donavan's Story

UMTC Alumni

I am Diné (Navajo). I am #FirstGenProud. I arrived at the UMN Twin Cities campus with a check for one-hundred dollars and two duffle bags. No winter clothes! Immediately, I experienced loneliness from culture shock, the environment, no more desert, a huge metro area, the diversity of people, the campus size, and an abundance of activities. I still remember that I cried my first night during New Student Weekend. My family was over 1000 miles away and I wondered if I made the right decision to go to college. Starting the fall term was overwhelming. Adjustment was tough with no one to wake me up and my schedule was determined by course offerings. I used my one time drop my first semester. I was not prepared for the rigor of my program. Despite the adversities that impacted my performance, I found community. My friends, my peers, the countless staff, and faculty helped me appreciate what I enjoy doing most, helping people navigate systems. #UMNProud

Claudio Melo's Story

UMTC Staff Member

When I was in college, there was no discussion of "First Gen." Not having words or language to define being first generation meant that your story was hidden away. For example, not being able to afford a textbook for class or a winter coat or struggling to navigate different cultural and social norms and expectations wasn't openly discussed. Times have changed! I'm excited to see students embracing their First Gen identity as a source of strength. Now in my work with students as a career counselor, I applaud everyone's stories and appreciate the opportunity to be part of the UMN community. I am #FirstGen proud!

Natasha Bellefeuille's Story

UMTC Staff Member

My parents had me at a younger age, they came from working class parents who didn't have their high school diploma. When I enrolled in college I remember attending an orientation where all of my peers had their parents with them, mine dropped me off and wished me luck. I ran to a corner and called my parents to ask them to come back and attend this event with me. Stories like that drove me to pursue my education and provide opportunities for others. I am the most educated in my entire family, this title has inspired other generations in my family to look up to me for guidance. I am #FirstGenProud and so proud to support my CLA Students in their education!

Courtney Barrette's Story

UMTC Staff Member

Growing up, I never thought I'd be able to attend college because I knew my parents couldn't afford it. I didn't know anything about student loans or financial aid. And as I got older, I knew that attending college was the only thing I really wanted to do, even though I didn't know anyone else who had really done it. I would figure out a way to do it. And I did - with a lot of student loans later, I graduated from the U with my undergraduate degree and Hamline University with my dual master's degrees. The cost of higher education makes it hard for many to decide to attend college in the first place. I work to fundraise for student scholarships every day at the U and CCAPS so that other students that are in the same situation that I was, don't have to worry about being able to afford their next tuition payment. I am #FirstGenProud.

Fatima Omar's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I grew up in a single-parent household. My mother was the breadwinner who raised four children in Minneapolis. Being the first in my family to attend college has not only motivated me to finish a bachelor’s degree but it also has inspired me to complete my master’s degree.

My advice to any first-generation student is while most will not fully know your personal story and struggles, use that experiences to fuel your self-motivation and determination in accomplishing your goals. Whether you’re pursuing higher education right after high school or coming back as an adult learner, you are still achieving something that no one in your family has done. And remember to celebrate the smaller victories along the journey in your future endeavors!

Michelle Curtis' Story

UMTC Administrator

In my small town MN if you wanted out you either joined the military or went to college. I wasn’t considered college material and had to fight to take college prep classes. I was set to join the military when a friend told me about student loans- being poor I ended up qualifying for a good financial aid package. The only people I knew who went to college were teachers and professionals. I have an MS in Student Personnel and am a career financial aid professional.

President Eric Kaler's Story

Former University President

While I was the first in my family to be able to attend college, I was by far not the first to be keenly interested in learning. From a young age, I remember my parents always reading and rarely watching TV. They instilled in me a love of books and the knowledge and entertainment they contained. They also worked hard and sacrificed so that I, their only child, could go to college and emerge with only modest debt. That education defined me and set me on a path to success. I am proud that today at the University of Minnesota we provide that same kind of path to success to so many first-generation students.

Carissa Slotterback's Story

UMTC Administrator

I am a faculty member and associate dean in the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. I grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota. My mother was a single parent and cleaned houses to provide for my sister and I. As I approached the end of high school, I knew that my family would be unable to support me in going to college, yet I was driven to continue my education. I worked nights and weekends throughout high school, college, and graduate school and benefited from student loans that allowed me to ultimately get my PhD. I am committed to supporting those underrepresented in higher education and ensuring that our university continues to serve our community.

Judy's Story

UMTC Faculty Member

I am a faculty member at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. My dad was a general foreman at the GM plant in my hometown and my mom worked at a restaurant as a hostess. When I turned 16, I started working with my mom. My parents were proud of our state's public universities and I grew up always assuming I would be attending one of them. I am concerned about the loss of well-paying factory jobs as well as the growing costs of higher education -- together these problems make it less likely that students today will be able to afford college like I could just with my parents' earnings and my own.

Steve Cisneros' Story

UMTC Staff Member

I am proud to say that I am a first generation college student. I am proud to have completed my degrees and to be a strong role model for my daughters, nieces, and nephew. I also hope to be a role model and example for the first generation college students I have the honor of working with every day.

Laura Wiesner's Story

UMTC Staff Member

Unsure where to turn at first, great staff convinced me to stay on campus. Neither of my parents have a Bachelor's Degree. Before my senior year, I decided I would complete a second one so they would each have one to hold in a graduation photo.

Joseph Ballard II's Story

UMTC Staff Member

To be the first in my immediately family to go to college and receive my degrees is such an honor and title that I am proud to have. I hope that my experience as a first-generation underrepresented student can opened doors for others to find themselves and live their own American Dream. I am very proud to be both a first-generation and underrepresented college student. I am also honored to be in a role that I can pay it forward to students who identify as first-generation and/or underrepresented. I also hope that through my life’s journey and my work to continue to be a role model, mentor, and a source for inspiration to my family and any student that I encounter who is first-generation. My advice to any first-generation student is to never give up on following your dreams no matter what obstacles or trials may come and to never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something. Continue to preserve and find avenue and people who would support, motivate, and encourage you. #FirstGenProud

Tai Pham's Story

UMTC Staff Member

People have escaped countries in turmoil and risked lives to arrive in the U.S. including myself. Education is a strong value in Vietnam. I'm proud to have been a first-generation student. It's worth the journey. Now I help other students at One-Stop Student Services.

Angela Brandt Boutch's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I was raised in a very poor household by a single Mom with my four siblings. I went to work when I was 12 years old, working 20 hours a week as a Telemarketer. I had the opportunity to take community college courses in high school as part of a program for disadvantaged youth, as my grades were not strong enough for PSEO. I fell in love with the academic environment! After receiving my high school diploma, I got a position at the U of M as a receptionist. With the help of Regents' Scholarship, I graduated with my B.S. in Sociology and Educational Psychology in 2006 and my M.Ed. in HR Development in 2013. I now am the Administrative Manager in Scott Hall and am thrilled to see more First Gen students at the University and that makes me #FirstGenProud.

Mara Schneider's Story

UMTC Staff Member

It may have taken me 14 years, 3 different schools and tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt, but I did it all on my own! I wanted to show my young children that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, work hard and never give up despite life's obstacles. Where there is a will, there is a way!

Raphael Akara's Story

Graduate Student

Dreams are indeed the seedlings of reality. Growing up in a little village in Ghana, I always felt there was more to life than I was experiencing. In discussing my dreams of attending college with my family, friends and relatives, the advise I often get is, "Raphael, be content with what you have." So I took the matter into my own hands and sought every possible help I could get; first to finish my Bachelor of Science program and then to begin master's program.

Here I am today in this great University, studying engineering under world renowned professors and when I look back to when the whole idea of attending college was first conceived, I must admit coming this far was beyond my most sanguine expectation.

Therefore, your vision of the future is what you will one day realize for you will never have felt the desire unless you were capable of bring it to past.

Bao Moua's Story

Staff Member

I am proud to be the oldest of nine kids born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota to parents who were refugees from Laos. I am a proud Hmong American daughter and first to graduate from college in my family. I am thankful and appreciate the incredible support my family provided while I was on my journey through college which led me to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Child Psychology. I am proud to be working in a research lab at the Institute of Child Development. I am #FIRSTGENPROUD.

Lilli Ambort's Story

Undergrad Student

Since I was little, my parents have always told me that I needed to go to college. I watched my mom struggle when getting her associates degree in her mid-20's with twins at home and working two restaurant jobs. My dad has always done something with the trades. While my twin sister and I will be the first to graduate from four-year institutions and have the opportunity to go on to graduate school, I want to set an example for my little sister and little brother who will one day have to make this choice for themselves too.

Being a first generation college student has it's challenges, and I didn't realize that until I arrived at UMN. If you can believe it, I didn't even visit campus before orientation long after I had enrolled! Navigating FAFSA, essays, letters of recommendation, and scholarship applications came with a learning curve, and that didn't even include getting adjusted to an experience that no one else in my family could give me insight into. Overall though, I couldn't be more grateful for the opportunity to be here and have the network of other first generation students that have done the same before me.

Jill Fischer's Story

Staff Member

The term "first-generation college student" didn't exist (or at least wasn't commonly used) when I set off for college back in the mid-1980’s, but I definitely was one. My dad, a farmer, and my mom, a farmer's wife, were humble and hardworking high school graduates who wanted the best for their kids, even if it meant leaving the farm and rural Minnesota for college. And, with 11 kids, it often meant leaving the farm.

While they didn’t really know what my college world would look like, they made sure that I would get there, if that’s what I wanted. And by ‘getting there’ I mean that literally. They would drive four hours to and from my college town whenever I needed them to those first couple of years, before I had one of my many (lovingly called) ‘junker’ cars, which they also helped me procure. These things - the rides, the vehicles, the $20 bills stuck in my hand as I headed out the door - these were their way of helping me through the college experience in a way that they could and knew how. And college, well, it definitely was a different world for me. That first year, I was way out of my comfort zone. I didn't understand what was expected of me or how things worked. I often felt a little adrift, and so I identify with feeling like you don't belong and with the frustration and challenges of navigating a system you didn't even know existed. It was an often daunting and overwhelming experience.

Fast forward a few decades, I'm now a proud degree holder of both a BA and MS, and an even prouder 20-year plus higher education professional. Part of the passion I bring to my work and part of my desire to help students is due to my experience as a first-gen college student - one who sometimes wanted more support than I received, but also one who survived that experience by the grace and hospitality of so many amazing people - my family, the college staff and faculty, my friends, and even family members of friends - an entire village of fine folks who went out of their way, and took me under their wings, so that I might fly someday. In doing so, they gave me the chance to succeed so that I might return their favors, and pass on the grace and hospitality I experienced from them to others, once I had the chance. Being a first-gen student wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it. I'm honored to be a member of the #FirstGenProud crowd.

Cynthia Salazar's Story

Undergrad Student

I am the first born US citizen/Chicana/Mexican American in my family to attend a University/College. I am doing the Bachelor of Independent Study (BIS) and my three subjects I’m focusing on is writing, political science and Chicano studies. I would like to go to law school and eventually become an immigration attorney. I am so proud to be a first generation student at the U of M.

Hafsa's Story

Undergrad Student

As a person who identifies with several minority groups, I’ve always been constantly made aware of my First Generation American background. In the sixth grade, I was taught about a concept known as “survival of the fittest,” and only then was I finally able to pinpoint the way I coped through it all...overpowering the root causes and taking charge of its effects, only then would I benefit, no matter the circumstance.

Being a First Gen college student, for me, was a blow that I didn’t quite expect. Since the role of student is engraved in a child at the tender age of five (or even below for some), I’ve never quite correctly forecasted the storms ahead.

I spent the first year and half of highschool in my parent’s home country of Somalia. Carrying high expectations of my finally finding a niche, I walked in there with shoulders a little too high. Local youth were quick to point out my differences, and the little too obvious side glances of adults weren’t exactly welcoming either. Apparently, we (two of my siblings accompanied me) even walked different and it was a dead giveaway that we were from the U.S. Who knew, right?

As time passed, people slowly started seeing us less as foreigners and more as commoners. The little get togethers I had at my friends’ houses, my grandma’s captivating stories, the endless amount of outdoor activities, and watching/ participating in the rituals soon won us both over: me, them; and the country, me.

With very limited Somali speaking skills and about ten Arabic words somewhere in the maze of my head, I was enrolled in a local high school that used the two as what the majority of coursework was offered in. So when I came back to Minnesota at the end of highschool, sophomore year, my peers have already been selected for a college readiness program. With very limited resources and guidance on hand, I applied and went to Augsburg University.

After staying for SOAR (their overnight welcome/ registration days), I soon realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford such a school and only two days before the first day of school, I signed up for MCTC. Unable to go forth with the five+ year plan my advisor had mapped out for me, I soon found myself at Metro State University. And although Metro gave me warmer welcome, the nagging “what if” thoughts led me to apply to UMTC just two days before their spring deadline.

Today, although I still struggle, try to take everything one day at a time. While that’s easier said than done, and at the very least cliche, the more one strives towards it, the more achieving it becomes a reality. And friends, never undermine the power of faking it, for your brain knows no difference between it and making it.

To be proud of my beginnings, however, was something that was always instilled in me in order for me to either appreciate my fruitious results or take note of my unfortunate shortcomings. The belief that everyone carries their own strength is one of the driving factors of life, it’s just that some are dormant, eagerly waiting awakening.

My parents named me Lioness, and that served as a fortitude in my forever being #FirstGenProud.

Lana's Story

Undergrad Student

Håfa ådai! Nå'ån-hu si Alanalyn Pinaula-Toves and I am a first gen from the island of Guam.

Both my parents and I grew up with dichotomous identities; being both Charmorros and military dependents.These are two deeply-rooted identities in which the only two paths commonly taken are either raising a family or enlisting in the military. Even so, attending college had been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember. I was never deterred by the fact that I didn’t know anyone who had already gone down the same path and I was setting out to take. In fact, “First Gen” wasn’t a term I had even heard of up until a couple of months ago. All I ever knew was that I had my mind set on obtaining a higher education and eventually becoming a doctor. It wasn’t going to just be a dream of mine. I was determined to make it my reality.

Every generation of my family made sacrifices that eventually led to my ability to be here. My parents have made innumerous sacrifices that have helped me get to where I am now, in the hopes of giving me opportunities they could have only dreamed of. Being a first gen is a constant reminder that being here is an honor and privilege for me, my family, and my island. It is a reminder to never forget where I come from, no matter where I am headed. Si yu'os ma'åse, Mom & Dad. I couldn’t have gotten this far without you. Hu guaiya hao.

Taylor Utterberg's Story

Staff Member

I had humble beginnings growing up in a blue collar union family on the Iron Range with not much of a head start financially. My grandfather was a first-generation American miner from Italy and my grandmother was first-generation American homemaker from Finland. My sister and I may be third-generation Americans, but we were both first-generation university students; she graduated from UMD while I matriculated at the 'U.' I moved to Minneapolis in 2013, played sax in the marching band where I met my husband, and performed research during my four years in the Twin Cities. I graduated with my BA in 2017 thanks to the support from my family and my husband. After that, I also received a post-baccalaureate certificate in 2018 from the School of Nursing. I now work full time on campus since 2017 and I couldn't be more proud to be a part of this university and be a Golden Gopher everyday, and it's all thanks to my parents for encouraging me to get my degree. Both my parents are proud to be Gophers, even if they don't have bachelors degrees. Row the Boat, Ski-U-Mah, and Go Gophers!

Marleny's Story

Graduate Student

When I told my grandpa that I had gotten into graduate school and would be the first member of our entire extended family to obtain a Master's degree, he hugged me and said he was proud of me. Every day I attend school, I think about the sacrifice my parents made by coming to the United States. I can't wait to be the first.

Tom Anderson's Story

Senior Citizen Education Program Participant

Being a first gen student is not unusual for my generation, the Baby Boomers. Our parents were born before World War II and the changes it made to the American education system. Still, to think that I am the first male on either side of my family to earn a Bachelors degree is humbling. And to think that, at my age, I am back on campus earning a second BA with eyes toward grad school is probably something my ancestors would have a hard time comprehending. Yet, here I am an undergrad again this time at the University of Minnesota.

Taking the non-traditional route has been my forte. Sure, I went to college right after high school but left after two years to pursue a career. One job led to another, then I got married and had a family and the next thing I knew I was having a mid-career crisis: I had gotten about as far as I would without a degree. It was then I went back to college and earned my BA at age forty-three.

Coming back to college as a participant in the Senior Citizen Education Program seemed natural. For me, learning has no age limit.

Ellen Harth's Story

Undergrad Student

I am a sophomore at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities, double majoring in Animal Science - Dairy Production and Agricultural Communication and Marketing. I grew up on my family’s owned and operated dairy farm near Hinckley, Minnesota. I quickly learned that coming back to the farm after graduation was not an option and had to seek out a degree instead. I am the first person from my family to attend college and I have enjoyed every minute of it. I joined Beta of Clovia Sorority, Block and Bridle, and Gopher Dairy Club. I have studied abroad in Belize for Coral Reef Management and hope to travel to other countries again. These opportunities would not have been possible without coming to the University of Minnesota. I could not be more proud to be a first generation college student.

Jinhee Cha's Story

Graduate Student

My mother and father never had a formal education, nevertheless they always wanted one. Growing up in rural Korea, my mother and father couldn’t afford an education because they were preoccupied with providing for their own families. They did not want that for me nor my siblings and so, they moved the U.S for a better future for us. Recognizing the importance of education, they spent countless nights with me and my sibling, double checking our homework assignments and practicing their English. With their help, I was able to graduate high school, attend college and complete my master’s program. Today I’m a first-generation PhD student studying Epidemiology in one of the best public health University’s in the United States. Their dreams of a better future for us paid off.

Karen Chen's Story

UMTC Student

For me to be #FirstGenProud at the University of Minnesota means being driven to make a change for the future generations.

Due to years of translating in the healthcare field, I am planning to attend graduate school for healthcare administration & policy to help further reduce language barriers and create policies to obtain better healthcare for immigrants and refugees.

Bethany Waldron's Story

UMTC Alumni

I didn't even KNOW I could go to college until 11th grade! It was a rocky start AND middle. Thanks to TRIO, the Student Parent Help Center, Disability Resources, and some amazing instructors and advisors who really cared at age 45, I graduated with my B.A. in Cultural Studies in 2014 ON THE DEAN'S list. It took me 28 years, five colleges (universities/for profits/& community colleges), and three amazing children, but I persevered. Now I am finishing my last year of GRAD SCHOOL at the U of M-Twin Cities and will graduate with my Master's in Multicultural College Teaching & Learning in May of 2019! My advice: Speak up, LISTEN, ask questions, fact check, see your advisor, get involved, your instructors are PEOPLE...be honest with them. Your tuition is paying for all of this so USE IT! You will NOT regret it. You can do it! #FirstGenProud!

Shanique Wright's Story

UMTC Student

I grew up in Jamaica with my father and seven other siblings. My mother had migrated to the Cayman Islands to work as a domestic helper since I was six leaving our father to raise us. My father worked as a higgler and a farmer to ensure that we had the resources to go to school. Neither of my parents had the opportunity to attend college or University. My mother was not able to attend high school due to the financial instability of her parents while my father was only able to complete secondary level education. My family live in the rural parts of the country with limited access to wifi, running water and any reliable source of transportation. After May 2019 I will be the youngest and the only child in my family to have successfully completed two bachelor degrees at a four year University. It was a difficult decision to leave my family to pursue higher education in the United States however it was worth the sacrifices that were made by my parents and family. I am grateful for the resources provided by the International Student Scholar Services, Culture Corps and the Athletic Department that continues to help other #firstgeneration improve their career development. Through these organizations I have been able to network with local organizations, meet individuals who share a similar passion for criminal justice and embark on new adventures through internship opportunities and university sponsored programs.

Tracy Lee's Story

UMTC Student

I am the youngest of six, and a daughter of two refugees whom did not have the opportunity to pursue any type of education in their homeland, Thailand, and when they immigrated to the United States, because of the Secret War. My parents have been in the U.S. since the 1980s but still speaks broken English. My five older siblings did not continue to pursue higher education. I am the first to go to a 4-year institution college in my family and am #FirstGenProud. Although this journey gets difficult as I face challenges and questions which I cannot turn to my family for advice or help, I am grateful for all the peers, mentors, colleagues and staffs that continue to push me to be a better me.

If you are a first gen student, don’t be afraid to fail and start over on whichever path you choose to pursue. Only then can you grow. Despite how you choose to pave this path of yours, know your parents and everyone around you will always be proud of you!

Andy Tran's Story

UMTC Student

Being a first-generation student over the past few years of going to college has been the most difficult for me especially when it comes to speaking and expressing my opinions in the classroom. Being a first generation sure has its benefits, but it also means carrying a whole bunch of responsibilities and having to find and discover the resources that will help you succeed when it comes to your academics. Even to this day, I find it struggling to speak up and to find the right resources, but I’m glad that I have supporters and those who understands my struggles.

Monica Correale's Story

UMTC Doctoral Student and TRIO Instructor

After 10 years of working full-time while attending college, I became the first in my family to graduate from college. Simultaneously, I parented my younger brother; recently, he became the first in our family to graduate from high school! I applied to PhD programs in Developmental Psychology and was admitted with full-funding into 8 programs. As a doctoral student at the Institute of Child Development at UMN, I conduct research on prevention programs for high-risk children and families. I strive to set an example of upward mobility through higher education to my current TRIO students, particularly those with similar backgrounds.

Fernando Rodriguez's Story

UMTC Grad Student and Staff Member

I come from humble beginnings, roots established long ago along la frontera. These roots are still the foundation on which I stand. The ivory tower has challenged every aspect of my being and made me question my upbringing, self worth, and my ability to succeed. In large part, I made it across the stage because I continuously re-connected to the strength within that comes from the foundation on which I took my first steps into the academy. No academic degree, position, or level of “success” within this academy will change this.

Nancy Vang's Story

UMTC Staff Member

My parents never had the opportunity to receive a college education since immigrating to the states as refugees from the Secret War in Laos. My siblings and I had to help each other pave the way to access higher education with the guidance of wonderful teachers and advisers during high school and throughout college. I am a proud TRIO student and am so proud to be a first-generation student. Our hopes and dreams also matter for ourselves and our loved ones.

Miriam Wood Alameda's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I am #FirstGenProud because I know it is not easy. Growing up, my parents had always been my number one fan, and it was not any different when I entered college. The ""tu puedes, te queremos"" were repeatedly said especially when my parents did not know how to help me. As their first child to attend college, we learned a lot of lessons together. Early on, I realized the importance of advocating for myself. Something as simple as asking my parents for their tax information way before the deadline because as much as they love me, meeting a deadline required a lot of work. In a way, I know my enduring and lessons-learned with me prepared them to be able to support my younger siblings when their turn came.

In my current role, I feel incredibly motivated to help other FGEN students achieving their educational dreams. Every student that graduate is a motive of a big celebration!

Kirsten Collins' Story

UMTC Staff Member

My family moved around quite a bit when I was growing up, from Wisconsin (Go Pack Go), to South Carolina, to Indiana. We finally settled with my grandparents in N. St. Paul when I was 12. My grandma was a lunch lady and my grandpa was a mechanic for 3M. My mom worked for JC Pennys until she got a job at the U as a secretary when I was about 15. It was then that she decided to go back to school through the Regents scholarship. It was watching her study at the kitchen table that made me think that this college thing might be something I could do too.

In the meantime I kind of navigated school on my own. My family supported me, but they didn't know about all the things that were important for college (or even if I would go to college). I had planned apply to the upholstery school when I graduated, but because it closed the same year I started to consider college. My high school adviser had be fill out an application for the U, since I was on free and reduced lunch it was free, and it's the only application I filled out. After looking at all the college choices (CBS, CLA, etc.) I checked the "General College" box, because I just wanted to go to regular college. Through some miracle I got in and joined the TRIO program.

There weren't a lot of poor kids in college, and General College and TRIO made me feel comfortable and like I belonged. I had instructors that supported me and advisers that didn't judge me when I messed up. I am very grateful for that experience. If not for TRIO and GC I don't think I would have made it through college.

Korina Barry's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I am Anishinaabe, and I am #FirstGenProud. Over the years I faced adversities that impacted my school performance, and later made it difficult to find an institution that would understand my experiences and believe in my potential. I broke down those barriers and started this journey in higher education. With the support of community both on and off campus, I attained a bachelors and masters degree. I currently work and teach in the UMN School of Social Work. My education has provided me with great opportunities, and has allowed me to give back to my community in many ways. It has helped me “mino-bimaadiziwin” (live a good life).

Katie's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I am grateful to my parents for teaching me to value education and encouraging me to go to college, despite college being a mystery to us all. As a UMD student I felt lost and inadequate much of the time but lacked the language of “first generation” to help me understand why that was. It was an academic advisor’s off-handed assurance that I was doing fine that gave me the confidence to continue, graduate, and eventually pursue a career in higher education. It is an absolute privilege to work at the University of Minnesota and support student success every day. #FirstGenProud

Courtney Lang's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I had no idea that being first generation was uncommon. Applying to schools should’ve been my first clue; I didn't even know the University of Minnesota existed until I overheard my high school classmates talking about their dream schools. Although my parents couldn’t save much money with five children, they wanted us all to attend college. We learned the value of hard work, fumbled through FAFSA together, learned from each other’s mistakes, and now four of us have degrees! I even work for the University and continue to take classes. Today, my dad’s favorite t-shirts are all from our schools.

Cheryl Brama Berman's Story

U of M Alumni

Growing up, I was always in honors classes. I wanted to go to college, but my parents didn’t even know how to apply. This was before the internet, so there was no way for me to find out. Then one day, I showed up for homeroom—it was honors English—and I was the only student. I didn’t know what was going on until the teacher, Mr. Oman, arrived 15 minutes later. “Cheryl,” he said. “Why in earth aren’t you in the library taking the PSAT?” “The what?,” I asked. “Come with me, you should take this, it will get you into college.” No test prep, but I must have done ok. The U accepted me. My senior year there, I left a few credits shy of a degree, but I went back 10 years later to finish. Thank you Mr. Oman from Spring Lake Park High School and all my professors at The U for making me #1...in my family to graduate.

Carolyn's Story

Faculty Member

Being a first born of two first borns, I was the first among my siblings and cousins to earn a bachelor's degree. My parents and grandparents were in professions and careers that in their eras did not necessarily require a college degree (agriculture, secret service/law enforcement, nursing, military, clergy) but they role modeled for me (and my siblings) valuing education, excellence, and hard work. They didn't need a college degree to do amazing things, but they pushed me because they understood the value of higher ed. Each of my siblings went on to graduate from college, as did most of my 16 cousins. I'm the only one (so far) with 5 college degrees, and as my daughter l likes to say, I have never left. She's technically correct. :)

Afton Delgado's Story

Undergrad Student

I came to the UMN as a transfer student from a local community college. My family and I are Oglala Sioux and from Minneapolis who resided in Saint Paul. My mom had attempted to go to school but later dropped out because of the birth of my sister and me. She was the same age as me when I graduated with my AA. My entire family felt the excitement for someone to graduate. The most unexpected part of that was continuing at the UMN. Applying to a university was uncharted territory and was one of the most difficult transitions I have ever made. I fumbled and anxiously tried putting the pieces together for my application. I worked extra hours to cover the $90 application fee. During this time we just had been evicted and I had felt guilty for using my money towards a college application. I moved into UMN housing and felt a relief but also survivors guilt. My new apt was nicer than any house or apt I’ve been in. I was on campus filled with anxiety as I endured culture shock and looked for someone from my community or a friend from school. My grades declined over the course of two years and I soon took a year off to rebuild myself and prepare for school. I am now a fifth year and applyinh for graduate programs. Things aren’t easy for First Gen students or transfer students but we are especially resilient and courageous to be trailblazers and leaders. Things get better not out of luck but because of our bravery.

Gao Vang's Story

Staff Member

I remember my older siblings coming with me to parent-teacher conferences as a child. Since elementary school, I had to read through the mail at home and explain to my parents what it said. I didn’t know how to translate the words ‘insurance’ or ‘advertisement’. My parents are refugees who have labored their entire lives to provide for my 10 siblings and me. While having little by way of formal education, my father was a natural born leader, and my mother, the embodiment of resilience and selflessness.

Higher education has afforded me opportunities to craft a life of my design. As an undergraduate student, I studied abroad in Asia, Africa, and Europe. I completed my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing here at the U of M. As a first-generation student, I felt incredibly privileged to dedicate my time to pursuing my passion, at the same time, I wrestled with imposter syndrome. I’ve since learned to use my voice, even if it shakes, and to seek out experiences that push me.

I feel a deep sense of responsibility to expand the practice of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Working with the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs, I am uniquely positioned to share stories of people doing incredible work to advance the health of communities and address disparities.

Cheyenne Carter's Story

Undergrad Student

I am a #FirstGen student! I am so happy and so proud of myself to take my mother's next generation forward! Breaking generational curses is hard! Getting through the semester is harder! LOL

Holly Henslin Link's Story

Graduate Student

My Grandpa was born to parents who had fled France to live in Canada. He immigrated to the US in his 20's. His daughter, my mother was one of eight children who became orphaned at the age of 17, had to work to support herself, and never finished high school. My father, the son of immigrants from Germany and England, enlisted in the Navy at 17 and subsequently became a registered architect who designed some of the nation's greatest hospitals. When I turned 17, my parents gave me $2000 and their best wishes for my college career. By continually working and attending university, I was the first in my family to receive my B.A., then my MA, and am soon to receive my PhD. It wasn't easy to accomplish while raising kids and caring for aging parents. But with the partnership of a loving husband, the example of my forefathers and foremothers, and the grace of God, it's been a great journey. As Winston Churchill said, "Never, never, never give up!"

Hillary's Story

Graduate Student

I am a proud daughter of Hmong refugee parents. I am a first generation Hmong American; the first child to be born and raised in the USA, one of the first to graduate with a four year college degree, and now one of the first to obtain a graduate degree. I want to honor my ancestors who have gone before me – who have passed down their wisdom, knowledge and resiliency. And I also want to thank all my family, friends, supporters, mentors and the Gates Millennium Scholarship for their support.

Madisen Gittlin's Story

Graduate Student

Ever since I was little, I've wanted to change the world and make it a better place. I grew up knowing an education is the surest way of realizing that dream. I am the first in my family to earn a Bachelors degree, and further, am the first to attend graduate school. I am grateful every day that I found my passion and in environmental sustainability and food systems as it drives me through my graduate studies and beyond.

Devin's Story

Staff Member

I always knew that my parents wanted me to go to college, but I never realized how difficult it would be to navigate higher ed without someone who had experienced the process themselves and had the financial resources to pass on to me. From applying to schools, figuring out financial aid, and attending college, I was quick to learn that these institutions had historically excluded and made the process intentionally more difficult for students like me. I was fortunate enough to find community with other first-gen students and find staff members and advisors that were willing to help and advocate for me. With this support, my parents dream became my own and I fell in love with learning inside and outside the classroom so much that I decided to pursue a career post-grad as a Student Affairs professional. I am so happy to have honored my parents wishes and to have made them and myself proud by receiving a degree.

Jabra Kawas's Story

Staff Member

As the first person in my family to attend college, I felt a great sense of pride. Especially when two of my younger sisters followed suit and attended the U of M. Being accepted at the U of M would have never happened had it not been for my 11th grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Dahl. One day, after class near the end of the school year, she approached me and asked what I planned to do after high school. In typical 16 year old boy fashion I muttered, "I don't know." Mrs. Dahl looked at me and asked if I was considering college. In typical 16 year old boy fashion once again I mumbled, "I don't know." What she said next changed the trajectory of my life. "Well, you should, because you're smart enough." I had never heard that before. I owe being a first gen student to a very caring teacher who saw something in me that I didn't.

Morgan's Story

Graduate Student

Being a first-gen student during undergrad honestly didn't faze me much, but this identity has become much more salient in my life as I've gone through graduate school. There is so much you don't know when you're the one blazing the trail of pursuing an advanced degree; you have to learn so much on the fly. Part of that learning includes learning how to deal with things like impostor syndrome and being more gracious and kind to yourself as you navigate this entirely new experience. Personally, I'm thankful for the support systems I have as I've moved through my education, and I am so proud of my identity as a first-gen graduate student. First-gen students are tenacious, determined, and the hardest workers I know, and I'm proud to be among them.

Tenzin Choerap's Story

Graduate Student and Staff Member with TRIO Upward Bound

I was born in India as a Tibetan refugee and immigrated to the united states when I was ten years old. My family and I struggled navigating the complicated process of the western school system, but TRIO gave me a lending hand. TRIO is a federally funded program that assist first generation and students from moderate income background persist and attain bachelors degree and/or Ph.D. I was a part of TRIO (ETS, SSS, McNair) from middle school, high school and up until I graduated from college. I benefited immensely from the support and guidance from my TRIO councilors when I needed it the most. My exposure to TRIO made me want to do something similar for the Tibetan community here in the Twin Cities. During my undergraduate years, couple of my friends and I started a tutoring/mentoring program called LAMTON (meaning guidance in Tibetan) that provided support and guidance for first generation Tibetan students in high school. My work with LAMTON invoked my passion and a purpose for what I want to do in life - that is to advocate and work for the underserved student population. Currently, I am a college access advisor with TRIO Upward Bound at the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities campus and also a graduate student in the OLPD of H.E. I am where I am today because of all the genuine support and care I received from TRIO staff, faculty, school administrations and family. I proud to be the first one in my family to receive a bachelor's degree and soon, my masters! #ProudFirstGen

Chelsea Garcia's Story

Staff Member

I am proud to be a first-generation student! Knowing that my parents would not be the only source for support for me I sought out advisors and mentors across campus to help me along the way. My mentors helped me access employment opportunities, gave me guidance on how and when to purse my Master's degree, and helped me celebrate my college career victories. Mentors are incredibly important to my success and they continue to hold me accountable even to this day! If you are a first-generation college student and you are looking for support, find me. I am happy to connect and help you find your place on our campus.

Catalina Anampa Castro's Story

Undergrad Student

My hardworking, dedicated, and strong parents worked very hard to give me the opportunities I needed to be able to attend college. I am the first in my immediate family to go to college and this spring I will be the first to graduate!

Dan Garrison's Story

Staff Member

College was always an option, but I had no idea what that meant. Even after I earned a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota, I was still searching for that meaning. Now, eight years later, I am going to be the first one in my immediate family to get a Master’s degree in the OLPD higher education program where my focus has been multiracial identity on campus. I would never had made it this far without the unconditional support of my parents and close friends and it wasn’t until later in life that I realized that college as an option was profound! The U can be hard to navigate as a first generation student, but know you have the support of those who came before you! #UMNFirst #FirstGenProud

Jordan's Story

UMTC Student

As a first generation college student, who is now pursuing a PhD in cancer immunology, I have overcome numerous obstacles to get to where I am. I urge you all to recognize that you are in control of your own life and to not allow the factors of your past to dictate your future.

Vicky Yang's Story

UMTC Student

As a first-generation college student, my path to college has been quite strenuous and coming from a family background of little to no post-secondary education has greatly influenced my goals and aspirations. As refugees of the Vietnam War, my parents have always encouraged and influenced me to seek out as much knowledge as I could from this country that has offered me so many opportunities like having access to an education system.

Being the oldest of 4 children, I always felt like it was my duty to pave the way for my younger brothers by going to college but a part of me always felt like I wasn't "smart" enough to make it through. It was difficult for me, especially during the first year because I was physically separated from my family- my biggest cheerleaders. Despite the pressures of school, I pushed through time and time again because I reminded myself just how much I wanted to do it for my brothers but also for my parents and grandparents who sacrificed a lot for me to have this life. Eventually, I went on to earn my AA degree and now I'm here at the U.

Here, I found my support system. I have reliable peers I can look to for advice, I have friends who support and push me to achieve in my academics, and I have advisors who do the most to help me maximize my potential. I am now in my 4th year, on track to graduate in the spring. My advice to all my other fellow first-gen students is to trust your process and believe in yourself, self doubt is the biggest killer of all dreams. Dream big and dream fearlessly. Find resources and network with others because they will be the ones to help you reach that finish line. Lastly, when you're going through rough times, always think about the people who are cheering you on because you're doing exactly what they didn't have the chance to do.

Bailey Johnson's Story

UMTC Student

My story is a common one. I grew up in a single-parent home with a mother who often worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. Going to the U seemed like a far-off dream for so long, but now I'm here and set to graduate this May. It has been incredibly difficult, and I've come so close to quitting so many times, but in just a few months I will get to put on my cap and gown and walk alongside my classmates. My greatest hope is that my graduation sets an example for my younger cousins and half-siblings, nearly all of whom would also be first-generation students.

Linda Vang Kim's Story

UMTC Staff Member

Growing up in a single parent, poor, immigrant household, my mother emphasized the importance of education. She never had the opportunity to attend school back in Laos and believed the only way out of poverty was to get a good education. Even though I struggled with ACT prep, college applications, and FAFSA forms alone, I always had her support. Although it wasn't culturally accepted, she allowed me to "go away" to college and live in the dorms. At college, I quickly realized how out of place I was. I hadn't known what to expect, felt like an imposter, and was angry. Mostly I was angry. After an invigorating class discussion, I knew my classmates could go back to their dorms and call up their parents to continue the conversation... I couldn't. Despite this, I found support from TRIO Student Support Services, where I met other first gen students and formed a caring and supportive community that helped me feel less "different". And my mom, bless her heart, always sent me back to school with a box of noodles and a bag of rice after a weekend back home. This familiar food sustained me through the hardest years of my life.

Alexis M. Murillo

UMTC Student

I am incredibly #FirstGenProud. My family sacrificed so much for me to leave everything behind in Chicago and attend school at the University of Minnesota. So, when I came here, I knew that I had to make the most of my collegiate experience, not only for me, but for them, too. When I think of my #FirstGenProud Story, I cannot help but remember a telephone call with my Nana at the beginning of my collegiate career. She was in awe that I was taking an introductory Chemistry course. Although, in the life of many college students, introduction to Chemistry is a basic science course, I remembered that such a class was not a familiar concept to my incredible Nana - a woman filled with so much wisdom. In that conversation at the beginning of my collegiate career, I realized how blessed I truly am with the opportunity to pursue a higher education and do things no one else in my family has ever done. Often, we forget that roughly 70% of Americans don’t have college degrees. Navigating college has not been easy, but I am thankful for everything I have learned and I hope to pass that on to other #FirstGen students in the future.

Richard Lee's Story

UMTC Faculty Member

I looked up to my two older brothers and wanted to follow their footsteps by going to college. But then they both dropped out of college while I was still in high school. My own troubles led me to "drop out" of high school after my junior year, but I fortunately figured out a way to apply to college early. Along the way, I received my G.E.D. and eventually became the first in my family to graduate from college. With the support of family and guidance of many mentors, I went on to obtain my PhD and become a professor. I am #FirstGenProud.

First Gen Student's Story

My parents always pushed me to go to college because they did not get the support they needed when they were kids. My mom made sure we were in a school district where the majority of kids go to college. I am proud to say that I am a college student, and I see college as a privilege. I thank my parents for encouraging me to go to college even though they did not get to.

Angie Fertig's Story

UMTC Adjust Faculty Member

I am an economist and adjunct faculty at the Humphrey School. My father was an enlisted member of the Air Force with a high school degree who met my mother while stationed in South Korea. My mother only had the opportunity to complete the 6th grade. They worked hard and saved every penny to help send me and my brother to college. I studied and soaked up everything I could to make a better life for my family and to help others through research and teaching.

Elisandro Cabada's Story

UMTC Librarian

My grandmother was born in an impoverished area of Mexico and immigrated here when my mother was a child. They were not afforded the same opportunities as I was having been born in the United States but they were undeniably the most intelligent, hardworking, and ambitious people I know. That has driven me to be the first in my family to not only graduate with a four year degree but also complete a master’s degree in library science. Thank you grandma, thank you mom.

Will's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I was never scared - just excited - to attend college more than 700 miles away from my hometown in rural Virginia. When I arrived, it became clear that I faced different challenges than my peers who had more access in terms of cultural capital and other resources. It didn't take long for this acknowledgment to morph into pride. Through my overcoming of various barriers, I had demonstrated resilience and earned my place. Now, 15 years later, I serve as a role model every day for first-generation college students in the President's Emerging Scholars Program. No career could be more rewarding.

Minerva S. Munoz's Story

UMTC Staff Member

I left my family to pursue college here with the firm belief that if I wanted to be better and do better for my community and family, I had to invest this time (and money) to develop myself, build skills, and earn that degree. Along the way, I doubted my decision. I missed my family. The obstacles I faced seemed insurmountable and my little brother and sister were growing up without me. Over one of the breaks, I went home and my little sister read me an essay she wrote about me being her role model; I knew I had to finish. Now, with two degrees at hand, I am grateful to serve #UMNFirst generation students as the director of TRIO Student Support Services.

Kady Johnson's Story

UMTC Staff Member

When I first started college, I felt like everyone else was in on a secret. I didn’t even know what questions to ask because nothing was familiar. Then, I found mentors and other first gen students and realized that I deserved to be there too. I went on to get my Master’s degree in College Student Affairs because I loved college so much I never wanted to leave! There are people like myself on campus, many who are first gen, who know what it’s like to feel like you are in this alone. You are not alone. Let us help!

Marquis Taylor's Story

UMTC Staff Member

As the first in my immediate family to attend and graduate college, I am aware of my responsibility to "lift as I climb". I was also conditionally admitted into my undergraduate institution so I am always appreciative of the journey, rather than the destination. Now as a first-generation college graduate, it is my firm belief that every first-gen student should have access to same opportunities I was fortunate to receive. Because of this I am forever grateful and strive to provide spaces where first-gen students are able to be their authentic selves. #FirstGenProud

Juan Telles' Story

UMTC Staff Member

At the age of 5, I was working in the strawberries fields with my family. I remember thinking that I did not want this for my family when I was older. When I was in middle school, I was introduced to the University of MN by participating in Educational Talent Search. I knew that’s where I wanted to be. Even though I struggled throughout my youth, I was able to my keep my passion to go to the U. My senior year in high school I was able to participate in El Puente Mentoring Program at the U. This program allowed me to build a network of supporters and helped me achieve my dream of attending the UMN. #keepthepassion #UMNFirst #FirstGenProud