First-Generation Student Stories
Nearly half our students are the first in their family to attend college. We are proud to provide the resources, education, and support that helps them reach their goals and break new ground. These are a few of our recent first-gen student stories.
First-gen student is getting her degree so she can pursue a career in health care.
Liz Guckiean is a nursing student and UC Blue Ash Student Ambassador who is working hard to pursue her goals in health care and leadership. She appreciates the support from her family, but she notes that there are some extra challenges she faces.
I think it's a huge accomplishment, being a first-generation college student. But it definitely can be hard sometimes when your family doesn't necessarily understand the pressure and the exhaustion and the workload that college brings.
Liz helps support the Blue Ash Bearcat Food Pantry on campus and even spoke to more than 200 faculty and staff members about the pantry and the 2023 UC Blue Ash Convocation. She says that while her family can’t understand the challenges she faces as a college students, she often gets extra motivation from her friends, especially her fellow ambassadors and nursing students.
“I am extremely hard on myself, on my grades and on my schoolwork. But the people around me are the same way because they have that drive and the dedication to get the degree and get the career that they have always dreamed of. It's really nice to be surrounded by those people who are the exact same way as me and work really hard.”
Student travels across the world to be the first in her family to attend college.
Akriti Hamal grew up in Nepal and came to the U.S. to pursue a degree in nursing. While her parents never had the privilege of attending college, she says it has been her goal from an early age.
“Being a trailblazer for my family feels like a great responsibility and a source of immense pride. The responsibility isn't just about my personal achievement, but it's about demonstrating that it's possible to follow one's dream and break through societal and familial norm. I aim to create a path that my younger siblings and cousins can follow.
Akriti says she sees the power in education and how it can provide endless opportunities for a better future. After graduation she plans to begin her career as a nurse and gain experience working in surgical settings. She also has a goal to eventually return to Nepal to help empower underprivileged communities through education, health care, access and sustainable practices.
2023 Honor Student of the Year is thriving as she pursues a law career.
Briana James is a first-generation college student, honor graduate, and political science major who plans to pursue a career in law.
I think being a first-gen college student has pushed me to advocate for myself and look for whatever my college can offer, and UC Blue Ash has offered me a lot!
Through her excellence in the classroom and her non-stop involvement on campus, Briana was recognized as the 2023 UC Blue Ash Honor Student of the Year. She also participated in the 2023 UC Blue Ash Study Abroad program that visited different locations in England and Germany as part of courses in everyday sustainability and design thinking and problem solving.
“I wanted to have this perspective to consider possible opportunities to work abroad. I believe working abroad isn't just simply getting to live and work in a different country but rather being able to adapt your skills to a culture and society that may be different from your own.” Replace with your text
Pursuing a career in public health with a focus on reducing mortality rates.
For Cynthia Kudatsi, going to college is the first step in her path toward a career in public health. She says taking this step will help her continue her research around maternal mortality rates among Black women during pregnancy or childbirth, and prepare for a career where she can help others and make a difference.
Cynthia says having the support of her family was a huge help in being the first to attend college.
That has been a big motivator for me to keep going. How does it feel to be a trailblazer? It truly is quite rewarding at times. It can also be quite lonely because, you know, you have to figure out a lot of the things yourself.
Cynthia adds that the students, faculty and staff at UC Blue Ash have been great about making her feel welcome and supported. She notes that there are resources available for all students, but they are especially helpful to her as a first-gen student who is navigating her way nearly every day.
“You can definitely use the resources that are available through our school to really help you stay on task and succeed.”
First-gen student finds different ways to get involved on campus.
Emerald Shockley may be the first in her family to attend college, but she hasn’t wasted any time getting involved and taking advantage of the resources that are available at UC Blue Ash. Emerald barely has any free time these days – she is a nursing student, student orientation coordinator, student ambassador and vice-president of the Sister Circle, a student organization at UC Blue Ash.
She says she was motivated to attend college to pursue her dreams of working in health care and helping others.
“I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life and my career to something that involved selflessness and caring for others. My professional goals are to get my nursing license and then continue working toward my BSN and eventually become a nurse practitioner.”
Emerald says she would like to focus on women’s health and advocacy as she progresses in her career. She also wants her journey as a first-gen student to inspire her younger sisters and cousin to pursue their goals without any limits.
Tabitha Rios hopes to share her experiences as a first-generation college student and a soldier with her daughter, as well as her future students.
When Rios graduated from high school in 2012 she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life. She grew up in a financially unstable home and knew she wanted something better for her future. “I decided that while I waited to start a career I could see the world and meet new people.”
Rios enlisted in the United States Army and served for six years before returning to civilian life and eventually enrolling in the secondary education program at UC Blue Ash College. She says being the first in her family to go to college has been both rewarding and challenging.
Be proud of yourself for all that you have accomplished and stay motivated. Keep focusing on your goals.
"My family tells me how proud they are of me, but when it comes to support I feel like I can’t get it from them. Luckily, the veterans on campus are like my second family. I look forward to being a guide when my daughter decides what she plans to do with her life.”
Rios says her time in the military helped her discover a new passion for the past that is shaping her future.
“In the military and visiting new locations, I had the opportunity to see so much. It sparked a flame in my brain, and I began reading books, articles, even collecting small “fact” books. After graduating I want to become a high school history teacher. I find it thrilling to look at the past, and I want to spread my passion as much as I can.”
Her advice to fellow first-generation college students, “Be proud of yourself for all that you have accomplished and stay motivated. Keep focusing on your goals.”
I grew up in Milford, Ohio and graduated from Milford High School in 2020.
I always knew that I was meant to be an educator. When searching for colleges/universities, I wanted to find a place where I could be supported as a first-gen student; that’s how I landed at UC Blue Ash! I’m studying Middle Childhood Education with a minor in Spanish. After graduating, I plan to attain a master’s degree and then possibly a PhD or EdD in Education!
My family is proud of me and they remind me all of the time! All of the hard work pays off when I see the joy on my mom’s face when I tell her about each achievement.
Being a first-generation college student can be challenging. You may stumble, but try not to be hard on yourself. Remember that you’re not only learning the class material, but you’re also learning how to be a college student on your own. It’s a weight to carry, so give yourself grace and take advantage of the resources available to you. You can do it!
Chukwuebuka (Josh) Obi
I am originally from Lagos, Nigeria, but I moved to the United States with my mother when I was 14 years old. I attended Gilbert A. Dater High School in the Cincinnati Public School system, and chose to attend college at UC Blue Ash to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice.
As a first-generation student, I was able to live in the 1MPACT House (special Gen-1 community) on UC's Uptown campus, and used the free campus shuttle to get to my classes at Blue Ash. By staying on the Uptown campus, I was able to get all the benefits of living on a large campus while attending classes on a smaller campus with lots of individual attention.
I love my community at UC Blue Ash. I've made so many connections here with my peers, professors and even staff members. The Success Coaches helped me with navigating my financial aid, and answered any questions I had about how to be a college student. The Student Life office helped me get connected with the Men of Color Collaborative and with leadership opportunities as a Student Orientation Leader.
My advice to first-gen students would be to experience as much as you can. The more people you meet and the more connections you make, the better your college experience will be. If you have a dream and want to make it happen, it's possible -- just stay dedicated and grab that dream!