Q&A with first-generation students

Hagedor, Burley, Rangel, and Wesley.A WSU system-wide celebration of National First-Generation Day on Monday, Nov. 8, honored first-generation students, faculty, and staff on each of our campuses. Meet four of our extraordinary CAS students:

Angela Hagedorn, a junior majoring in history; Brian Burley and Alma Rangel, both seniors majoring in psychology; and LaShay Wesley, a senior majoring in digital technology and culture.

What does it mean to you to be first-generation?

Hagedorn: “The most important thing is that I am accomplishing something that I started and have always wanted to do. Being first-gen makes me feel proud of myself for completing my education, and proud to show my kids that no matter what age you are, there are still dreams to be followed.”

Burley: “I never really thought much about being a first-generation student. What I hope is that I will inspire my own children that no matter how old or what they want to do in their lives that education is important, and they should strive to work hard at everything that is in front of them.”

Rangel: “Being first-gen means that I am a role model being pushed to my limits. It mainly means that I will give back to my parents for everything they have done for me to be where I am today.”

Wesley: “Being first-gen means that you have the opportunity to set a path for yourself and others, and there is a lot of pressure on you.”

How did being first gen affect your college experience?

Hagedorn: “It has taken me years to get to this point. I have traveled different paths through the years, taking detours to raise my kids and fulfill some different careers. I have had to figure out everything about attending college on my own as my parents never attended, nor was college ever discussed when I was growing up. I didn’t even know how to “dream” about going to college.”

Burley: “I just knew that I wanted to work very hard to get the best possible grades, learn something new, and show my children to never quit no matter how hard something is.”

Wesley: “Usually you have support and are guided when you first come to college, but I came to college alone. It made it harder for me because I had to rely on others to guide me, and I put pressure on myself when I fail.”

What would you tell your younger self and/or current first-gen students?

Hagedorn: “Don’t be afraid to continue your education regardless if it seems impossible. Don’t wait for anyone or anything to make the financial situation come together for you, instead be proactive and figure out ways in which you can make your education a top priority.”

Burley: “I would tell my younger self to start college way earlier. It was not until after I got married and had my first child that I thought about getting my college education. Also, think hard about what you want to study, whether it’s your first career or a second career. I changed majors three times.”

Rangel: “Get connected with people. Even if your family can’t help you, people in your school can, and they will be your guide for the next couple of years. Ask for help, advice, and suggestions!

Wesley: “I would tell my younger self that I need to give myself grace and don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek support.”

Which program, person, or resources helped you most?

Hagedorn: “So far, I would say that my most helpful people would be Jennifer Thigpen (associate professor, history) and Brian Stack (lecturer, history). Both have been extremely helpful in the courses I have taken with them.”

Burley: “Thinking about what career I want after my military service has been difficult, but my family, friends, and co-workers have been a great help.”

Wesley: “For me, it has been CILA (Center for Intercultural Learning and Affirmation). A lot of people help me there when I get stuck and they give me a new perspective on things.”

As a first-gen, what do you wish you’d known before coming to WSU?

Hagedorn: “I wish that I had known about WSU Global Campus sooner, and I also wish I transferred directly from Spokane Community College years ago.”

Burley: “I wish I would have known a lot earlier in my search for online schools what WSU has to offer. Until I got stationed with the Navy in Washington, I had no idea about WSU, and it is better than the other two online universities I attended. I am glad I am here.”

Top image (L-R): Angela Hagedorn, Brian Burley, Alma Rangel, and LaShay Wesley. 

Originally posted at WSU Global Campus, WSU Tri-Cities, and WSU Vancouver.