What is it like to be the first person in your family to attend college? What challenges and opportunities face those students who have no familial reference point to higher education? Whose parents never considered college, or wanted to attend, but couldn’t?
Through our reporting for this series, we learned that being the first in your family to attend college is a honor that presents unique challenges. We learned that our first-generation students are highly driven and dynamic people who found courage in the face of difficult circumstances. We learned that, incredibly, 55 percent of last year’s incoming class consisted of first-generation students. (Let that sink in for a moment.) And we found that NKU is a place that offers invaluable support for these students and others like them—pioneers who are charting a new course for the next generation.
By the age of 19 Katherine Ruckle had branded herself as a failure. The unyielding drama of home life had already caused her to drop out of high school and move in with her sister. Soon, Katherine found an apartment in downtown Cincinnati and began living on her own.
Today, Katherine has her own home. She is a peer mentor and a social media manager for Student Support Services, providing assistance for new first-generation students like her. She’s also president of the office’s student ambassador program.
Every time Delrico Hill is tired from working his three jobs, every time he doesn’t want to go to class or get out of bed, all he has to do is think of his mother. He’ll think back to those days when they lived in the projects and he had to dodge gangs and the violence on his street. He’ll think back to how he was able to escape.
“Everything I do, I do for her,” says the 20-year-old sophomore, who is majoring in Middle Grades Education at NKU. “My Mom is my rock. She never gave up, working to have money in her pocket and food on the table. I’m going to do everything I can for her.”
Amanda Bodenbender looks at her daughter, Maddison, and thinks about how far they’ve each come.
Maddison is now 4 years old and Amanda, a 22-year-old first-generation college student, is 16 weeks from graduating with a degree in elementary education from the College of Education and Human services at NKU.
It seems like ages since Amanda left her six-month-old for the first day of classes.
Ashley Farnsley was only a few months away from graduating from NKU with a bachelor’s in Marketing when she hit a crisis of confidence. She was feeling the general pressures of young adulthood being amplified by her status as a first-generation student. Instead of gaining momentum as she neared her degree, there was something about being the first person in her family to complete a college education that was gnawing at her.