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Isabel Bolaños

Junior, General Business Major

As a first-generation college student, there is no one you can go to for help in your family. I remember trying to enroll as a high school senior and getting very frustrated because I had to figure out everything on my own. Navigating the college environment has made me a “go-getter” and really independent. As a first-generation college student, I learned that I was the one that needed to make things happen and that I can push myself to do anything because I am capable of anything I set my mind to. The Financial, Billing and Enrollment Center (formerly One Stop) really helped me with financial solutions and my academic advisors were also very helpful. I would advise first-gen students to never hesitate to ask for help. There are always people who are willing to help, all you have to do is ask. There are also lots of resources on campus, you just have to put yourself out there. Lastly, do not forget your purpose and stay focused.

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Josie Vano

Senior, Integrative Studies Major with Disability Studies and Community Inclusion Minor

One of the biggest issues I've had is not really knowing how everything works when I need something. I can't go to anyone in my family to get advice about navigating the complexities of university life, internships, course selections, etc. My advice for first-generation students is you can do this! It's going to feel overwhelming sometimes, especially if you feel like there's no one you can go to for advice in your family. But you can find those people at school: professors, advisors, staff, graduate assistants, even upperclassmen are willing to help you move through this experience. They can understand your struggles and worries better than you might imagine, and they can be a great source of support. They want to see you succeed, and they'll do what they can to get you there.

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Paige Davis

Sophomore, Sociology Major with LGBTQ Studies Minor

The biggest challenge I faced as a first-generation college student was not only finding financial support but also finding personal/emotional support. Through Upward Bound I was able to apply for a scholarship and I was awarded full tuition. Upward Bound also helped me fill out and submit the FAFSA application. Finding that personal/emotional support was very difficult because I am the first person in my family to graduate from high school and attend college. I ended up believing in myself and pushing through the negative environment that I was in, relying on outside resources and my friends to help me emotionally get through the application process and my first year of college. I would tell first-gen students to work hard and ask for help when you need it.

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Amy Rose Dudycz

Senior, Integrated Social Studies with a concentration in History

As a first-generation college student, I struggled with the transition from high school to college. When I first came to Kent State, I had no idea what to expect from a big university or how to manage classes on top of working, and I had never lived away from home before. In order to figure out what my new life would look like for the next four years I really utilized all of the amazing resources available to students. My RA, my academic advisor, and  Financial, Billing and Enrollment Center (formerly One Stop) helped me see all my possibilities. My advice to first-gen students is to not be afraid of what you don’t know. Kent State has so many helpful resources, please use them! You will be in a much sounder place to thrive here if you're not afraid to ask questions. Adapting to the new demands of college was daunting but flashes take care of flashes, and I am so glad I chose to be a student here.


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Lisa Evans

Master's in Journalism and Mass Communication 

I am a first-gen undergrad student, and I am the only person in my immediate family to receive a master's degree. A challenge that I face quite often is not feeling good enough to be in the spaces that I encounter. I overcome this challenge by remembering that I am here for a reason and that I am an example to the generations behind me on what they can begin to achieve. Finding mentors in my field that have walked the same journey I am walking has been a great resource to help me navigate college. I would tell first-generation students to be confident in who you are and where you are going. Don't let what you may not have seen growing up make you feel that you are inadequate. Don't let friends who may not be on your same journey deter you or make you feel less than who you are.

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Antoine Williams

Hospitality Management Major with Pan-African Studies Minor

A challenge I faced coming into college was communication skills. I learned how to communicate by attending various career development workshops and by participating in student activities around campus. The student success center was a great resource for tutoring services and the Academic Diversity Outreach office helped me stay on course thanks to the Academic Advantage program. The Student Multicultural center was another resource that helped me navigate life in college. I would tell first-gen students to not be indifferent towards college life and community; start with a plan and find resources to help you succeed in your journey and excel towards your future.



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Zinga Hart

First Gen Staff, College of Communication and Information 

As a first-generation college student, I remember leaving college after my first year to help my family. However, my grandmother encouraged me to press on and complete my degree. I realized that I worked too much while attending school and the academic support staff helped me re-prioritize my short-term money goals for my long-term financial dreams. First-gen advocacy is important to me because we can miss a lot of what helps us succeed in college by just not knowing what resources are available. I would recommend asking questions and tapping into resources available to you because you deserve it!

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Keya Jennings

First Gen Staff, College of Education, Health and Human Services

I felt that I was not capable enough or smart enough during my experience. I felt that I had to make scarifies as a single parent. My family and friends helped me on my journey towards degree completion. I believe it is important to pay it forward to support students with their challenges and successes to help them be resilient. I would advise students to not give up and ask for help. Utilize all resources available to you!

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Lorene Martin

First Gen Faculty, College of Nursing

I remember the struggle of completing my Nursing degree since I had two small children and a limited income.  I worked three part-time jobs and drove over an hour to take my classes here at Kent State. On graduation day, I was thrilled knowing that I had accomplished my goal and would be better able to care for myself and my children. My family supported me as well as I had a great deal of community support and encouragement that helped me with my degree completion. First Gen advocacy is important to me because neither of my parents or grandparents attended college. It was difficult for them to understand the challenges associated with a college level education.  For first generation students, set reasonable, realistic goals and remember to take care of yourself while working towards your degree. There is no prize for getting done “the fastest” …sometimes a break is necessary to assure your success.

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Martha (Marti) Ann Coles

First Gen Staff, Performing Arts, School of Theater and Dance

What I remember most about my First-Gen journey is that I didn’t take this journey alone. I was a non-traditional student with two children, along with my older sister and her two children, two nieces with their children and other family members who lived in the Allerton Apartments (KSU Family housing dormitories). This was an enriching environment for us and our children because of the opportunity to live among international students, some of which are still friends of mine today. I am glad to say that most of my family members graduated.  I would tell a first-generation student to ask questions until you get the answer that will help you. There are so many resources and people available to help you on campus, so seek them out!

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