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.

Maggie Miranda

Administrative Assistant, Foundation

“I am so thankful for the opportunities received. I am proud to be a First-Generation college student. I truly believe that parents do the best with the tools they have at the time, and my parents worked long, hard hours to provide. For myself, I too had to work. being a single parent, I worked in education. I am a firm believer that education is key, I never gave up the dream that I would one day return to further my education. I did so later in life. My advice is to keep going, no matter where you are in life, whether you are in or just out of high school, young adult, middle age or senior – ‘Just do it!’ One step at a time! It opens the doors to a whole new world of opportunities, experiences and people that you can meet along the way! What a wonderful journey. Some days may be difficult, but it is SO worth it!!!!”


Bobbie Sue Schutter

Disability Support Services Coordinator

“My mom, who completed her GED, has always been extremely proud of my educational accomplishments. It makes me happy to see how proud she is. The highest degree in my entire family was an AA degree (an Aunt on my dad’s side). I grew up wanting to go to college, but not knowing how to do it. I navigated everything on my own. There is something about struggling, and overcoming, that leads to an enduring belief in what we believe we are capable of. I’m so glad I persisted.”

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“Take every opportunity to reach out for help and guidance. Whether it is discussing which classes to take, applying for grants and scholarships, or figuring out how to write a great personal essay for a 4-year school, lean on those who have gone before you. We WANT to help you!”


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!”

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!”

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.”

Richard Middleton kaplan

Richard Middleton-Kaplan

Dean of Arts & Sciences, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood & Parenting Education, and Human & Social Services

“Although my parents were not able to complete college degrees on their own because of various barriers at the time, including needing to work to help support their families, their aspiration was always for me to go to College. My mother, as the daughter of a single mother on Welfare, could not complete college; moreover, her dream of becoming a Spanish teacher was scuttled because she had a very slight lisp because of gapped teeth–something we would consider barely detectable now–and under New York rules at the time that disqualified her from becoming a teacher (because of official fear that she would teach students to speak with a lisp). I cannot remember a time, no matter how far back, when it was not simply assumed that I would go to College.  As children of immigrants from Eastern Europe, they saw education as the path to a better future in the United States. I am proud to have fulfilled their hopes for me to achieve what circumstances prevented them from doing.” 

What’s your advice for first-gen students?

“I never wanted to lose my sense of connection to my parents’ working backgrounds and lives. That influenced me in many ways. When seeking jobs to support my education throughout high school, college, and graduate school, I purposely sought out physical labor–furniture mover, stock clerk, butcher’s apprentice–although my classmates who worked all seemed to find better paying jobs that were less physically arduous. But I wanted to maintain that connection to a sort of blue-collar world. In graduate school, when I wrote papers, I went out of my way to avoid the disciplinary jargon that my peers tossed around and instead tried to write in a way such that even my parents could understand it. I needed to maintain inside myself the idea that I was not leaving my background and my parents behind.

On the negative side, because I did not have savvy advisors, I sometimes declined to pursue opportunities that might have been open to me. For example, I decided not to apply to Stanford and UC Berkeley because I just assumed that they were unaffordable. My parents had driven me to those places for campus visits and were supportive, but somehow I decided internally that they would be unaffordable for my family and that sufficient financial aid would not come through. In retrospect, perhaps it would have. So my message is this: Never say NO to yourself. Never pour concrete over a pathway of your own future. Give yourself a chance. Let someone else say NO. They might say NO, but they also might surprise you with a YES. Give them the chance to tell you YES or NO, but never say NO to yourself.

My other message is that although I did not pursue these opportunities, I did get a great education (at UCLA) and I am grateful for that education every day of my life. I would not have met my wife, I would not live in the kind of house I do, I would have the daily pleasures of interacting with wonderful co-workers, I would not have traveled to the marvelous places I’ve been for academic conferences…without my education. It made everything possible about my life as it is now. I am grateful to it, and to my late parents of beloved and blessed memory for encouraging me, every single day.”

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.”

Chad Hickox

Chad Hickox


“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.”


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.