AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - A college education can be the gateway to a promising career and future.
For more and more families in our area, that opportunity is becoming available for the first time ever as we find out in this week’s Good News With Doppler Dave.
College enrollment in general has been on the rise in recent years. What is staggering, however, is the percentage of students who are the first ever in their family to attend college. They are known as first generation students.
George Pacheco of the Office of Academic Affairs at WTAMU says, “We have been tracking it since last year, and last year about 47% and this year we are right at 50%. When you are looking at 10,000 students, 49% of those is 4,999.”
Jasmine Ruiz is not only a first-gen college student, but also the first in her family to attend high school, and even middle school
“I’m a first generation high school student as well as even middle school,” Jasmine tells us. “I have cousins and family members who didn’t even make it that far, to middle school. My parents are from Mexico so they wanted us to strive. A lot of us did strive and so I am really glad that I am able to make not just my parents proud, but my family in Mexico proud.”
Unlike families with college experience, first-gen students must blaze a completely new trail.
“Students who are first generation don’t have the background through family who can say, ‘This is what the registrar’s office means, these are what these acronyms mean, these are the programs that exist on campus that can help you.’ So we want to be a support network for those students”, Pacheco explained.
Leslie Asacio will soon graduate from WTAMU and head to optometry school.
She says, “Just being in the program has really helped me guide myself because my parents really didn’t get an education. My parents just barely made it through high school, some middle school. So they really didn’t know how to guide me, what scholarships were, what financial aid was, what even the basic application for a university was.”
Many first-gen students look at their opportunity at college and see a turning point for their family’s future.
“You are trying to make a change,” says Jonathan Cordova, a WTAMU graduate student. “Not only in your family, but in your community. Being a first generation student means that you are going to create a path for everyone else. Not only for your family but for other students that are going to be first-gen students.”
Jasmine added, " Well, I’m glad that I am making the impact that I am with my niece who is a senior at Caprock. It’s definitely making me feel better as a person and and aunt to be able to help her, but not only her, but other students and or other people who have come and asked me for help. We are all in this together and we need to strive together and we need to make a difference."
The first steps on a career path and the beginning of realization of dreams for first generation college students, and it’s starting here at places like WTAMU and AC. It’s just good news.