(Marion) This holiday season, Marion Technical College is thankful for our first generation college students, faculty and staff. College can be challenging to navigate, especially without someone to show you the ropes. As Dr. Ryan McCall shares with pride, graduating college can change not only your life but your family’s and your children’s futures.
For some MTC staff, college was a dream their parents had for them. “My parents told me to go to college and I never stopped!” joked Dr. Amy Adams, Vice President of Planning and Advancement at MTC. Adams grew up on a farm in Wyandot County and worked at Whirlpool during summers to help pay for college.
Other families simply didn’t talk about college.
“My father was the first in his family to finish high school and did not encourage or discourage college. It simply was not discussed,” said Tony Box. Growing up in Iowa, he wanted an alternative to farming and applied for college and completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on his own.
While he enjoyed college life, “I did not know how to study or even understand basic college terminology.” Thing got better as he matured and became more focused on his future. Box is now the Director of Admissions and recruiting for MTC.
Box now is the first person in his family to hold a master’s degree. “I plan to use my time to take the mystery out of college for others,” Box shared.
Others found going to college a huge challenge.
“My grandma and grandpa came from Kentucky and North Carolina. To say it simply, education was not valued in their homes or small towns. My grandma worked in the tobacco fields until she was old enough to work in the factory. She was able to achieve an 8th grade education,” said Amanda Robinson, receptionist for Enrollment Services. “My mother was the first person in the family to obtain a high school diploma, but still, I grew up in poverty.”
Without really having a clear understanding different college options and costs, Robinson selected an expensive private college.
“When I choose to go to college, it was HUGE for our little family,” Robinson recalled. A relative bragged about her acceptance and then told her to move out.
The first thing Robinson did at college was to find a job. At one point, she had three jobs. She got married during her sophomore year. Her junior year, her ailing grandmother needed care and moved in with her and her husband. Robinson also received custody of her 11-year-old sister with autism. Her grandmother died a month before graduation.
When Robinson graduated, it was at the peak of the Great Recession. “I was over or under qualified for almost all available jobs in my field. Several teaching jobs I took lost funding before I could be hired or started my first day,” Robinson remembers.
Eventually, life got easier.
“After 10 years away from Marion, I moved back. I am now the first person to own a house and a car at the same time in our family. I am now the first person to have student debt in our family. I am now the first person to experience college in our family,” Robinson shared.
Robinson loves helping MTC students, especially those who are first gen.
Cathy Crum, clinical nursing coordinator, grew up in a small rural Ohio town where most people went to work at local farms or factories. “My desire was always to become a nurse so I worked hard with my grades in high school to have a chance at college,” Crum recalls.
Her brother was the first child in her family to attend college, which helped her push open the door. She eventually received her BSN and MSN. “I believe that a desire and a call is the beginning of a life that will be changed with an education,” Crum shared.
Stacie Campbell’s parents worked hard. Her dad received his GED and joined the army before finding a long-term job that lasted until retirement. Campbell’s mom worked hard as a full-time mother as well as juggling various part-time jobs.
Campbell received her associate degree in nursing after high school.
“The path was difficult; I had to work two full-time jobs to keep up with the cost of college,” Campbell shared. “My parents were always supportive but did not always understand how to help me with the college process, which has led to many tears.”
Campbell found people who would guide her.
“What helped me during my first degree from a community college was the support staff. The staff helped with FAFSA applications and pathways to follow. Now with continued support from my husband, parents, friends, co-workers, and a university, I have received my Master’s Degree in Nursing Education and I am working on my Ph.D. in nursing. The best advice I can give to a first-generation student is to surround yourself with a support system and to utilize as many support services from the school as you can.
MTC congratulates all of those who are forging new paths for themselves and for their families.