This post was originally published by Higher Learning Advocates on November 14, 2019. 

Today’s Students: Inspiration for Higher Education

By Erica Hilton

Today’s students are more diverse across multiple areas than any previous generation of college students. Students represent various ages, income levels, and races. They’re more mobile and may not live on campus. Most participate in the workforce, either full-time or part-time. Work and family responsibilities beyond the classroom—whether that is on-campus or online—often compete with today’s students’ educational goals.  Yet, today’s students see the promise and power of a higher education. Today’s students shared with Insights & Outlooks their inspiration for attending college.

Getzamany Correa, Student at Bard College; LEDA Scholar

“A teacher of mine in middle school encouraged me to think about college. At the time, I enjoyed journalism, and he told me I could study it more in-depth if I were to go to college. He recommended some incredible schools to me that I had never even heard of like Northwestern. He made me realize I could go to these schools. In high school, I got involved in clubs and visited some of these college campuses for the first time. I was amazed by the resources and knew if I ever wanted to study what I was passionate about, I would have to go to college.”

Gianna D’Arrigo, Student at Saint Mary’s College of California

“My mother was the single biggest influence in my life, and she taught me the value of higher education at a very young age. As a first-generation college graduate, my mother always told me I could make whatever choices I wanted in life, but one thing that was absolutely mandatory was getting my graduate degree. In retrospect, I’m grateful my mother portrayed college as attainable, and never allowed me to question my own ability to succeed in higher education.”

Willian De Faria, Student at University of Notre Dame; LEDA Scholar

“What inspired me to go to college was the hard work and sacrifice of my mother. I would not be in this country if my mother did not give up everything she had to give me a better opportunity for growth and learning.”

Jorden Favors, Student at Pomona College; LEDA Scholar

“I can’t really pinpoint at what point in my life I decided I would attend college, but I can remember it had been a goal of mine since grade school. However, what inspired me to go to college honestly was to escape my circumstances of growing up in a low income, low resourced, traumatic environment. I had a dream to be well off financially, mentally and physically and wanted to come back to my community to alleviate those pressures of students like me who had a love for education but a myriad of systems failed them and didn’t allow for dreaming or goal making beyond the rectification of immediate concerns such as food insecurity and safety.”

Luis Gallardo, LEDA Career Fellow

“Being the “first” is a valuable aspect of my identity. As a first-generation immigrant and college student, I want to use my education to help my family escape the struggles that come with our immigrant identities. And as the oldest of 3 siblings, I want to be the first to show them that a college education is an attainable accomplishment.”

Alex Kish, Recent graduate of George Washington Law; student veteran; student parent

“I enjoyed my enlistment in the Marine Corps, but I quickly got tired of filling sand bags and picking up cigarette butts. I figured getting a degree would be a good way to get a job where I had more control over my career and my life. I was right.”

Tori Martin, Fulbright ETA 2019-2020 (Laos); Villanova University Class of 2019

“I made the decision to go to college largely because of the support of my high school guidance counselor. While my parents had always encouraged college, I didn’t have the faith in myself to feel that I could succeed and reach their high expectations of me. Having an external support system like Mrs. Mahler planted the seed of confidence in me that pushed me to apply to Villanova, where that small seed bloomed into the confidence that has led me to pursue many rewarding opportunities.”

Anthony Price, Wesleyan University; LEDA Scholar

“My mom inspired me to attend college. She worked and went to school full time while raising my two young brothers and me. She taught me that through education, I could make a significant impact in my neighborhood, community, and the world around me.”

María Romo-González, Student at University of California, Berkeley; LEDA Career Fellow

“As I worked with students in the Migrant Education Program during my high school years, I became inspired to continue striving towards my goal of pursuing a higher education because I valued the importance of expanding my knowledge and strengthening my “tool kit”. Going to college would contribute to my growth and development as a leader, in order to be able to return to my community and continue working with students who are often discouraged and lack the support and guidance to navigate the education system.”

Aidan Sova, Student at University of Michigan; Executive Director of the Association of Big Ten Schools

“My mother’s thoughtfulness, support, and guidance allowed me to feel confident that I could succeed at a post-secondary level. My hometown’s public school district and accompanying community leaders provided me with opportunities that would position me to thrive in an academic setting. These cherished people placed a tool kit within my hands, and I fully intend to continue working to pay their contributions forward.”

William Walker, Student at University of Richmond; LEDA Scholar

“Being the first in my family to go to college, my parents encouraged me to start a trend to propel my siblings and I forward.”