5 IUPUI employees share stories of being a first-generation college student

Festivities for IUPUI First-Generation Week start Saturday.

It's an opportunity to celebrate current students as well as faculty and staff who were the first in their families to attend and to graduate from college.

In preparation, the Division of Undergraduate Education collected stories, advice and memories from faculty and staff about their experiences as first-generation college students.

Read what five IUPUI employees had to say:

Demetra Andrews

Clinical associate professor of marketing, Kelley School of Business

I wanted to have a significant impact on my community and the world. A college education enables students to make contact with like-minded others, and it opens doors to new opportunities for exposure and advancement.

While you are working toward your degree, prioritize and structure your personal commitments and your classes so that you can really learn the material. Work with your adviser if you are not sure how to do this. Make time to immerse yourself in the material and really think about it. Make connections between what is presented in class and what you see in the real world. Discuss the material with your instructors to deepen your understanding.

Time passes quickly, especially when you're not paying attention to it. Plan out every minute of your time. Schedule your study time, your exercise time, your work time, even your free time.

Gloria Diaz

Academic and career support coordinator in the Diversity Enrichment and Achievement Program

Coming from an immigrant family background, I was exposed early on to the struggles my parents faced for having a limited education and resources.

Take advantage of all the resources on campus and find a mentor or a community who will guide you through this process. College is never a solo journey; you will need to rely on others to help you. Never doubt yourself. I am fully aware of the microaggressions and insecurities we may have faced during this journey. Trust me: You belong here.

College is hard. It will require a lot of commitment and at time sacrifices, but it will be worth it. You will most likely meet your future best friends, who will become your friends for life. Keep those folks close and always support one another.

Lastly, get out of your comfort zone. The best time to grow and learn is in college. Do not be afraid to engage in experiences that will help you grow a better version of you. You never know, you may find your true calling in life or at least a new passion.

Jason Palamara

Visiting assistant professor of music and arts technology, School of Engineering and Technology

My parents pushed me to apply; it was sort of expected in my generation. But despite these mundane beginnings, the reason I continued was because those early semesters instilled in me a love of learning new things which I had not experienced before.

It's a pretty awesome thing to be the first in your family to get a college degree, but it's not without its trials. You will often be surrounded by people who seem to take for granted the privilege you have earned by sheer will. Try not to resent them for their ignorance, nor be jealous of their fortunate head start. It matters a great deal more where we end up in life than where we started from.

I actually failed and dropped out in the fourth year of my undergraduate degree. Life drama, family drama, bad patterns and bad decisions had earned me a low GPA and a mountain of debt. Dropping out felt like the worst thing in the world at the time, but it gave me the opportunity to get myself out of debt and my head back on straight. As a faculty member now, I feel that these experiences are invaluable as I attempt to guide young students through similar rough waters.

Erika Thomison

Resource coordinator in the Division of Student Affairs

I had always dreamed of attending college. It wasn't until after my divorce that I realized it wasn't too late. I wanted to show my children that it is always possible, and to prove to myself that I was capable. So, at the age of 37, I became a college freshman.

I arrived on campus just 15 minutes prior to my speech class, where I was due to give a big speech that was worth a large part of my grade. As I walked toward Cavanaugh, I realized I had left my thumb drive at home, which held my entire presentation that I had worked so hard on. I had no choice but to find a computer and re-create it as fast as I could. By the time I made it over to an open computer, I had seven minutes to save myself.

With no time to spare, I walked into class, took a deep breath and prepared to deliver my work. I went on to earn an A in that course, and even compete in the semifinal round for speech night. The moral of this story is: familiarize yourself with Box and save EVERYTHING you work on there. This will allow you to remotely access all of your work, at any time.

Eric Weldy

Vice chancellor for student affairs

I applied to college because I wanted an opportunity to have a better life for myself, as well as my family. I was not just representing myself, but my family, and those relatives who did not have the same opportunities I had.

When I was a freshman, I earned a grade of F or D on my first quiz/test in each of my classes during my first semester. I started to panic, because I had never been in such a situation before. I was a great student in high school. But after giving it some thought, I scheduled meetings with each of my professors to ask what I needed to do to improve my grade. It was the best decision I ever made at the time. I ended that first semester earning a grade of A in three courses, a grade of B in two courses and a grade of C in another course.

Read more from current first-generation students at IUPUI.