Heritage: Summer 2021

A pile of orange buttons that say We Are First Generation

We are First-Gen

Bearkats share their student experience

The college experience helps open doors. A college degree has the potential to be a life-changing experience that leads to generational shifts in education and career paths.

Being a first-generation student is something to be extremely proud of, and Sam Houston State University understands that these students face unique challenges throughout their exciting journey towards becoming the first in their family with a college degree.

Offering insight into some of the many ways first-gen Bearkats are pursuing their dreams, students and new alumni recently shared with Heritage Magazine why they chose to go to college, the challenges they have faced, and the resources that helped them reach their goals.

Uri-El Jackson raising a paw on the SHSU grounds.

Uri-El Jackson

Houston, TX
Class of 2023, College of Education
Welcome Week leader, orientation leader, Black Women Empowered, We Rise, Kappa Delta Pi, As We Are

“To be a first-generation student means that you are trying to create a different pathway than others in your family who went their own way in life. I am breaking that norm. I am breaking away from what would seem like a normal thing for my family.

I want to be a life-changing teacher to my future students, and Sam Houston does a great job of creating successful teachers. SHSU is very accepting and supportive of first-generation students with programs like the Academic Success Center and TRIO.”

Amber Hoffman wearing graduation attire in front of the SHSU clocktower.

Amber Hoffman

Livingston, TX
Class of 2021, College of Criminal Justice

“I chose to go to college to be the first in my family to escape the generational curse of addictions and hardships. After obtaining my associates degree, I finished my last two years at Sam Houston State and thoroughly loved every minute.

I chose SHSU for the affordability and the renowned criminal justice program. While pursuing my education, I maintained a full-time job to be able to pay for school. SHSU offered a variety of classes that were convenient to my schedule, and provided teachers that genuinely cared about my progress as a student.

Sam Houston State provides a great atmosphere for new students and an environment that is better manageable for first-gen students. This experience taught me perseverance. I can now be a sound influence for my younger siblings and show them that anything is possible.

I want to be a juvenile probation officer to help kids that could get lost in the system. I want to make sure they know that they have a support system to not only graduate high school, but further their education instead of ending up in a bad position.”

I am very proud to be part of the large number of first-gen students here. SHSU has many wonderful resources for us. Fabiola Cardona
Fabiola Cardona posing under a sign that says You Can Dream and Succeed

Fabiola Cardona

Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico
Class of 2022, College of Education
COE Ambassador, TAFE, Kappa Delta Pi, PSUN, BESO, SHCEC

“I am a first-generation, bilingual college student. Spanish was my first language, and I moved to the U.S when I was 11 years old. Being a first-generation student means that I can make a difference in the world as I am pursuing a degree in education.

I have encountered many challenges and one of the best supports for me, as a first-generation student, has been the Counseling Center at SHSU. I think sometimes as a first-generation student, it is difficult to talk about certain things and with the help of the Counseling Center, I have learned to celebrate even the tiny victories in my college career.

I have also found support in the Student Money Management Center. Wondering how I will pay for college, and the SMMC has helped me look for grants, scholarships, as well as look into loan forgiveness for teachers.

I am very proud to be part of the large number of first-gen students here. SHSU has many wonderful resources for us, and it shows with the great amount of effort they have put into it for first-generation students. Knowing there are other first-gen students doesn’t make me feel so alone, and makes me feel supported in every way.”

Danielle White posing on a park bench.

Danielle White

Houston, TX
Class of 2021, College of Business Administration
President of True Life Change

“I grew up in a single-parent household, and my mom did the absolute best she could to raise us. Because of her inspiration, my main drive in going to college was wanting to provide a better life for myself and my family. It was also to be an example to my younger siblings.

Being a first-generation college graduate means breaking barriers. It also means showing that no matter what hardships you face in life, when you put your mind to achieve something, anything is possible.

SHSU demonstrates passion and care for first-generation students. There are so many resources for students like us to succeed. Through learning time management and discipline, I tackled my biggest challenges of having to make a living while balancing school and operating in various roles in my organization.”

I am honored to be at a university that has such a large student body of first-generation students because as we progress, we will continue to move our families forward. Leslie Canchola Rangel

Leslie Canchola Rangel

Corpus Christi, TX
Class of 2021, College of Criminal Justice
Evolve ambassador, pre-law, vice president of finance

“The pressure in being that first person in your family to go to college is hard. I always think about wanting to help others, and most importantly give my parents twice as much of everything they have given me.

The women’s organization Evolve has, by far, been my number one support on campus. Not only have they become my family, but they have helped me evolve as a woman, as a scholar and as a professional.

I really love to advocate the importance of education to other first-generation students because it is so important to show and express that we can all do it. I am honored to be at a university that has such a large student body of first-generation students because as we progress, we will continue to move our families forward.”

Mark Woods Posing with the Sam Houston sign at the corner of campus.

Mark Woods

Willis, TX
Class of 2023, College of Education
Bearkat Marching Band member

“I am glad that I am going after my dreams, despite the many challenges I have faced to get to this point.

It was very hard, and I wanted to quit at first. I failed my first class during my first semester of college, and I felt like a failure. I beat myself up because of it, but I got back up and succeeded the next semester, which made me very happy.

I am honored to be a first-gen student at SHSU because it makes me feel like I represent the school well, and I will have something to pass down to future generations of my family.”