Kevin Wright has already blazed an academic trail within his family. Now he aspires to become a university president and fight for fair educational access so others may do the same.
“As the first person to go off to college in your family, do you not know how important you are?”
All throughout my junior and senior year of high school, I kept on having fears about college in my mind while focusing on graduating. Then one day, Ms. Lowe, my mentor from the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program asked me this question. I didn’t know what to say. This tough question was followed by more intense questions: “Kevin, if you do not go to college, then how long will it be before someone in your family proves to everyone else that it is possible?” “If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” These questions were hard to hear and induced a lot of pressure upon me. However, the moment I was asked these questions, I no longer had a reason to be discouraged of college not being the thing for me to do.
I come from a family where college was more of a foreign concept than an actual goal. I always heard about it but never gave it any thought. I figured I would be okay with just a high school diploma. Not until my sophomore year was I exposed to the significance and importance of going to college after high school. That is when Ms. Lowe told me that if I was serious about going to college, I would be considered a first generation college student. Once college became more of an idea that would soon become my reality, I started to get scared again. I was afraid of…
- Leaving home
- Getting rejected
- Not feeling as if I belonged in this kind of atmosphere
- The cost
- Not taking my education seriously
- Not being smart enough
- Dropping out
- Not making new friends
- Being away from my family
- Wasting other people’s money and time they had invested in me
Student Affairs and Higher Education became my passion back in 2011 as a sophomore in college. In my student worker experience as an undergraduate student, I was mainly involved with work catering to the needs of first-generation college students, otherwise known as first-gens, whose parents neither attended or graduated. As a first-gen myself, I was afraid of coming to college. At first I didn’t think a life in the collegiate world was the endeavor I wanted to pursue only because I didn’t have a point of reference to look to until my sophomore year of college. To all the first-gens out there, going off to college is a scary venture, but at the end of the day, it is totally worth it. I hope I am reaching someone when I share my testimony.
To anyone who identifies as a first-gen, it is okay to be scared because then you have the opportunity to use that fear to your advantage in order to be successful. That fear is what lead me to walk across the stage twice on May 10, 2014 from Northern Arizona University with a degree. It is the same fear I am using as I prepare to start my Graduate Program in Student Affairs Administration at Lewis & Clark College where I am aspiring to become the President of a university in order to fight for students to have fair access to a higher education. I am also taking on this venture to prove to others that anything is possible as long as you put the effort into investing your time, energy, and passion in all that you do in life. I’m extremely proud of being a first generation college student, a first generation college graduate, and now a first generation graduate school student. It all makes my journey much more worth it to show others that the purpose of our education is more than we can imagine. ________