WWCC Warriors are First Gen!

A formal definition of a first-generation college student is a student whose parent(s) did not complete a four-year college or university degree. However, at WWCC, we understand that this definition may not fully account for the rich diversity of first-generation college students. For example, your parent(s) could have some college experience but did not earn a degree from a four-year college or university. Your grandparents, aunts/uncles and siblings could also have degrees, and you would still qualify as first generation. Some first-generation students come from low-income households. Some are students of color, children of immigrant parents and others are working-class white students.

Despite the different backgrounds of first-generation college students, there is much more that you all may have in common. And we want you to know that many of your instructors and advisors at the college were also First-Gen.

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LOOK FOR THE BANNER WITH THE LOGO TO FIND WWCC STAFF & FACULTY WHO IDENTIFY AS FIRST-GEN!

Brian-Gabbard

Brian Gabbard

Transitional Studies Instructor

“I’m proud to be a first-generation high school and college graduate. If I can do it, anyone can!” 

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“My parents didn’t graduate from high school or college, but they were super smart people. School just wasn’t a part of the world where they grew up. You can be a high school and college graduate and still respect and love the people you come from!”

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Morna Golke

Program Coordinator, Office of Admissions
“I’m proud to have fulfilled my parents’ dream (of education) and to have had opportunities to meet people from around the world.”

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“Talk to you instructors. Reach out if you don’t understand. Making that connection lets you know that people are there to support you. It’s never too late!”

Nadine Stecklein

Nadine Stecklein

Director of Student Life

“Because I was able to inspire my sister and mom to attend college. I’m proud to be a first-generation student because my family is so proud of me and looks to me as a resource for higher education knowledge and tips.” 

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“My advice is to always ask questions. and seek out resources and people to help you. You are not alone and there are people out there that want to help you!”

Richard Middleton kaplan

Richard Middleton-Kaplan

Faculty

University of California, Los Angeles: B.A. in English, 1983, Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, with Junior Year Abroad at The University of York in York, England

University of California, Los Angeles, M.A. in English, 1988.
University of California, Los Angeles. Ph.D. in English, 1993.

“My grandparents on both sides were immigrants to this country, fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. They prized education but never had the opportunity themselves; universities were forbidden to Jews in their home countries. My mother was raised in a tenement in the Bronx by a single mother on welfare, and she wanted to go to college but couldn’t afford to. My father had to leave high school. But the emphasized the importance of education, and I can not remember a time when I did not know that it was expected I go to college. By pursuing education, I fulfill the hopes and dreams that my ancestors held dear but could not pursue for themselves.” 

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“We first-generation may exclude ourselves from opportunities for a variety of reasons: because we feel we don’t belong or aren’t worthy; because we know we won’t be able to afford it and assume we won’t get a scholarship or financial aid; because we fear we are somehow being disloyal or untrue to our parents by embracing educational opportunities that they did not have. My advice is this: Never say NO to yourself. Never pour concrete over the doorway to your own future. Someone might say NO to you, but they also might say YES. Either way, give them the chance to decide. Don’t decide for them by saying NO to yourself.”

Ilona Verwer

Ilona Pease-Verwer

Nursing Instructor

“My parents went through WWII in The Netherlands as teenagers and did not have the luxury of going to school, let alone College. In addition, English is not my Native Language and I was able to become a faculty member with a master’s degree in Nursing Education.”

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“Never give up; work hard, make sacrifices, demonstrate grit and anything is possible. Imagine what you want to accomplish, and keep that mental image with you at all times. Remember Theodore Roosevelt’s words; Believe you can, and you’re half-way there.”

Holly Cranston

Holly Colón Cranston

Opportunity Grant Coordinator

“My single mother struggled to make ends meet as I was growing up. She worked long hours in hard jobs to ensure we had a roof over our heads and food on the table. And even then, sometimes we had to stay with relatives or eat PBJ sandwiches for every meal for a while. She wanted me and my sister to get a college education to help ensure we would be able to make a good living. She didn’t want us to struggle in the ways that she struggled. And my family has always valued education for its own sake. It didn’t happen for me in a traditional way. It took me a long time to finish my degree. Life took me on several detours on this college journey. But when I finally finished, my mom insisted that I walk at my graduation. She wanted to celebrate this accomplishment that she had always wanted for me. And I was proud of myself for persevering through every barrier and setback to finish my degree. Now I’m happy to support and advocate for other First-Gen students.”

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“My advice to other First-Gen students is to self-advocate. NEVER feel bad for asking questions, even if you ask them several times. NEVER feel bad for being the squeaky wheel. This is your education, and sometimes you will have to fight for it. If you can find an advisor or faculty member to be your mentor, use them. They will be happy to use their knowledge, experience, and connections to help you succeed.”

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Catherine Conway

Faculty

I attended Wentachee High School, Wenatchee Valley College, SUNY Potsdam, Towson University, Johns Hopkins University.

“My parents immigrated to the US so that my sisters and I can have a better education and a better life. They have always put our education first. So it is only fitting that I become an educator myself. It’s an honor to be able to show them that what they gave up for us (my sisters and I) is not in vain and we admire the sacrifices they made for us so that we have the opportunity to become whatever we wanted to be.”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

Advocate for yourself and be proactive when seeking guidance. Look for scholarships and grants. Join clubs and be involved in your community.

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Kevin Loomer

Nursing Instructor

Whitman College, B.A. in Dramatic Arts
Fuller Theological Seminary, M.Div. in Theology
Central Washington University, M.A. in Theatre Production

“When I first went to Whitman College, I moved from Portland to Walla Walla on my own and paid for my College education without the help of my family. While I did work and received fairly good financial aid, everything was surprisingly far more expensive than I imagined it would be. I did not even know we had to pay for our own books and supplies. I knew absolutely nothing about college life. The fact that I was able to navigate my way through this foreign territory and come out with a degree at the end still astounds me. I have great sympathy and respect for anyone attempting this journey without the guidance of a family that knows how to guide them. It takes great courage and resilience to succeed. And now I have two adult children who have graduated from college as well. I am glad I was able to help them through their journeys with the lessons I had learned. I feel glad for the legacy my college path has left future generations. I am also glad for the empathy and compassion my past experiences have given me for students who are on a journey similar to mine. These I too consider my “children,” benefitting from the things I have learned.”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

Every good college is filled with people who want to see you succeed. Don’t view the faculty and staff of a college as obstacles you must get past, but rather as allies and confidants on your journey to success. When you need help, admit it, and ask for it. I often made it tougher on myself by trying to prove I could do it on my own. I think I have much to be proud of, but I also had more stress than I needed. Seek answers. Admit it when you are lost or confused. There are folks who can help you, and there are resources to make the journey easier. Use them.

LISA CHAMBERLIN

Lisa Chamberlin

Staff

Associates Degree – Clark College
Bachelor’s Degree – Central Washington University
Master’s Degree – City University of Seattle
Doctorate (EdD) – City University of Seattle

“I was a student who enjoyed school and took challenging classes. I was an Honors student and graduated 21st in a class of 400+ students. Unfortunately, I also had no one guiding me about how to “do” college. I never met with an advisor and talked about applications, or financial aid, or even how to get started. It wasn’t until July after graduation that I decided to go, and I wandered into WWCC and started asking questions. The help I received changed my life and even put my on my future career path as an educator.”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

Walk in the door and ask the questions. Being willing to ask “How do I…?” shows just how smart you really are!

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Lara-Ly Hendrickson

Faculty

Walla Walla Community College, ADN
Western Governors University, BSN
Western Governors University, MSN

“My family did not value education. I attended college even when others said it was a ‘stupid, expensive pursuit that was not worth the time, money and effort’. I eventually obtained my BSN and MSN. I am changing the standard; my children value education because my husband and I value education.”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

Pursue your dream. Surround yourself with others who support you. Be tenacious.

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Doreen Kennedy

Staff

Walla Walla Community College
AAAS Executive Administrative Assistant
AAAS Legal Administrative Assistant

“I am able to show and share with those I love the importance of having a college education and that makes me proud!”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

“Take advantage of the support networks provided by the College, they are there to ensure your success! Don’t give up, ask for help, and know that your success is not measured in how long the journey takes, but that you reach your destination in the end! ”

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Kaye McGehee

Faculty

G.E.D.
WWCC Clarkston: ADN Nursing
WSU: BSN
WSU Master’s in Nursing with Teaching Certificate

“I was the fist in my family of origin to get a bachelor’s degree and advanced degree. Both of my daughters have gone on to get advanced degrees as well.”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

Keep trying. If you have a setback try again. I went back to WSU 5 times over the years.

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Jessica Ruiz

Staff

Walla Walla Community College: Associates Degree
University of Puget Sound: Bachelor’s in Psychology

“To be the first in your family to go to college is to take on a challenge that no one else in your family has experienced. Sometimes it’s difficult to navigate on your own, but once you graduate, it becomes so much more rewarding knowing that you were able to do what your parents couldn’t do or didn’t have the privilege to do. The opportunities that you’ll have that your parents didn’t is beyond exciting. To be a role model to those you didn’t know were looking to you is incredible. This is why I am very proud to be a First Gen!”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

“Ask questions! There are so many resources available that you may not be aware of until you start asking questions. One resource can lead to another and soon you’ll realize you aren’t alone in this, and there are many people who want to see you succeed. Also, don’t be afraid to talk with your instructors and ask questions if you don’t understand something. It’s great to build that connection and relationship with them, and talking with them will become easier.”

SANDRA GRAHAM

Sandra Graham

Faculty

Walla Walla University: Associate Degree in Nursing 1983, Bachelor of Science in Nursing 1984
University of Phoenix : Masters in Science of Nursing with a Specialty in Education 2009

“My college education was completed long before the term “first generation” was coined. However, I am proud to be defined as a first generation student. My inspiration for completing my education was driven by the stories my parents shared about the disappointment they experienced when they could no longer attend school due to socio-economic adversity in their lives. My father was able to complete the 3rd grade and my mother the 6th grade . Nonetheless, they were committed to life long learning on their own accord and shared those values with their children.”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

“First-Gen students take account of your assets that you have. Surround yourself with people who recognize your worth. Cling to any motivation you may have for completing an education whether it financial, making someone proud, or just self-satisfaction.”

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Doretha Frederickson

Staff

I attended Spokane Falls Community College, Spokane Community College, and Walla Walla Community College before transferring to Eastern Washington University where I earned a B.A.Ed. in Spanish, a minor in Psychology, and a Secondary Education Washington State teaching certificate.
I currently work as an Adjunct Instructor and student Advisor in Early Childhood Education here at WWCC where I work with bilingual students teaching course content in Spanish.
Additionally, I am currently enrolled in the Language, Literacy, and Technology Master’s in Education program at Washington State University Tricities where I am working on English Language Learners and Bilingual Education endorsements.

“Neither of my parents earned college degrees, but all four of their children have, and their several of their grandchildren are in the process of higher education. It is impressive to see how education empowers and develops us.”

Want to share advice for First-Gen students?

“Your starting point is not nearly as important as the direction you are heading.”

Chad Hickox

Chad Hickox

President

“The transformative nature of education is a privilege not available to everyone, which is why I have chosen to dedicate myself to giving people the same opportunity that I enjoyed, but that my parents did not.”

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“You may not feel like you belong here, but most of your classmates also feel that way. There are different things that each of us needs to learn (for example, I had never heard of a “syllabus” when I started college). The key is to be flexible and curious, as well as open to change. Don’t worry about “imposter syndrome.” Everyone is faking it until they aren’t. It then becomes their responsibility to reach back and help others make the climb. Ask questions, seek and accept help, and celebrate your success not only as an individual accomplishment, but as an enhancement of your family’s and your community’s future prospects.”

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Jacky Alonso

Development Coordinator, Foundation

“It was very challenging experience that I was able to overcome. My older sister had gone to college, but had to drop out due to not having enough financial aid and financial support. Our parents immigrated from Mexico, and provided so much guidance and support. However, financially we made it check by check. Having extra money to support us was not manageable. When I left to college, I promised myself no matter what, I would graduate. I was working two jobs year-round to make it by. Not only did I graduate on time (With no breaks), I graduated with an almost 2-year older daughter and pregnant with my second child. I delivered 3 weeks after graduation!”

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“Advocating for yourself is crucial. One thing as first-generation students is that we (At least myself) did not have someone at home to answer my questions related to higher education. Find out all the programs available for support you qualify for. I was part of the CAMP program my first year in college, this connection helped me throughout my years in college.”

First Generation-ImageNovember 8 is the annual National First-Generation College Celebration to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The HEA was intended to help level a playing field that for too long had been weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. Additionally, the HEA ushered in programs, particularly the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention, and completion for low-income, potential first-generation college graduates. To learn more about the national 2020 First-Generation College Celebration click First Generation website link.