First-generation students change history

A steady amount of first-generation college students have been coming to SHSU with a variety of different backgrounds that influenced them to continue their education.Assistant Registrar Teresa Ringo said the demand for more people to have a college education is a result of more requirements being made of future employees in the work place.”I think it’s the work force,” said Ringo. “Employers are requiring more education. It’s hard to get a decent paying job without it.”According to the Registrar’s Office, 412 of the 819 graduating seniors this semester are first-generation college students, or 53.37 percent. The percentage of first-generation graduating seniors for the August 2002 graduation was 43.98 percent and for Spring 2002, it was 47.05 percent.Troy Courville, director of Institutional Research, placed the total percentage of first-generation college students at SHSU working in a bachelor plan to be 46 percent during the last fiscal year, which lasted from Fall 2001 through Summer 2002.Courville said the number of first-generation students has remained about the same in the recent past.”It’s been within the same figure over the past few years,” said Courville.First generation students at SHSU have a wide variety of reason for being the first in their family to attend college.Junior Chris Pembleton is a former professional athlete who decided to continue his education after an injury. He said while he had not been raised with his parents encouraging him to go to college, they were still pleased with him he decided to attend.”There was no financial backing, but there was a “way to go” and a slap on the back,” said Pembleton.Pembleton said that with the job market the way it is now, a college education is necessary today.”You can’t get a good job without a college education,” said Pembleton. “In the previous generation people could graduate high school and start from the bottom up. But now you can only get so far.”Junior Angel Ramirez also said that he had little encouragement from his parents to go to college while growing up, and was not planning to attend until a teacher pushed him.”A high school teacher named Mr. Shearer,” said Ramirez. “He insisted I go to school. He actually applied for me.”He believed in me more that I believed in myself,” he added.Ramirez said that while his parents were neutral on the issue of higher education at first, they warmed to it after he began attending.”They didn’t care either way,” said Ramirez. “But now that I’m here they’re very proud, being first generation and all.”Ramirez said his parents weren’t aware of the opportunities students have to finance his education.”They didn’t know how attainable it was with money,” said Ramirez. “And if it was not for financial aid and people who believed in me, I would not be here.”Ramirez said that he has enjoyed the experience of school and the chances it has given him to learn new things, and that while he could have given up, he has decided to stick out the hardships to set an example for his family.”There was a time when I could have given it up, but I felt that I had to come back,” said Ramirez. “I couldn’t let down myself or my family, who was beginning to believe in higher education because of me.”He also said that his presence in college might inspire his siblings to consider higher education as well.”I think I’m a role model for my younger brother,” said Ramirez. “More than likely he’ll actually attend a university because I’m here.”Senior Sergio Valdez said he had already entered the workforce before he decided to take a pay cut and attend college. He said his parents were very supportive of his coming to college.”They’re totally cool with it,” he said. “Whose parents wouldn’t be?”Valdez said that one of the reasons why families who traditionally don’t have college-bound children are now sending them to higher education institutions because of changes in business requirements.”It’s kind of expected of high school students,” said Valdez. “You can still get a job, but it will take longer to step up. At least with a college degree it’s easier for potential employers, and you’ll have more doors open for you with a college degree.”Valdez also said that more government money being directed to education is also encouraging more people to go to college.”It’s made it easier because of funding by the government,” said Valdez. “There’s more encouragement; there’s no reason not to go.”Despite the different reasons for attending college, there was one thing all the first-generation students agreed on; all three students said that they will make sure their children will continue the tradition they helped initiate.”Encouragement is not the word; they are going to go to college,” said Pembleton.Valdez said that changes in job standards are what will make him encourage his children.”Ten years from now, the standards will be higher and eventually a master’s degree will be the standard to open up doors to employment,” said Valdez.Ramirez said he plans to raise his children with the concept of going through life without a college education as not being an option.”I’m going to encourage them their entire lives,” said Ramirez. “I’m going to instill the love of learning into them.”

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