Triplets celebrate first-generation college success
Today, we celebrate National First-Generation College Celebration. A first-generation student is a student whose parents did not complete a four-year degree.
Alberto, Alexis and Jacqueline Ortega represent just a few of the students, faculty, and staff on campus who identify as first-generation students. The Grand Island natives are in their senior year at NWU. We recently asked them to tell us about their experiences at NWU and as first-generation college students.
Why did you choose NWU?
Alberto: "I loved the city of Lincoln, but I wanted a smaller school environment. I came from a small high school, so NWU reminded me of the close-knit family we had in high school. Additionally, I wanted to go into the healthcare field, in my case physical therapy. NWU was the perfect school to attend."
Alexis: "Everyone was so welcoming on my college visit, and it felt like home. It was always a positive interaction with whoever I met with. I also knew this school would give me the science education I was looking for as it has a distinguished science program. I knew it would have opportunities here that I wouldn’t receive at other places."
What goals do you have for this academic year, and once you graduate?
Alberto: "Once I graduate, my goal is to go to physical therapy school and eventually get a doctorate in physical therapy. I plan to stay in Nebraska, but that may change depending on where I get accepted into PT school."
Alexis: "I’ve been on the Dean’s List for 5 of my 6 semesters here, so being able to get it both semesters this year would be a great way to finish my academic career at NWU. Once I graduate, my goals are to go on to medical school and work towards being a physician in the field of orthopedics."
Jacqueline: "My goal is to finish the semester strong and make the most of my opportunities at NWU before student teaching in the spring. I hope to learn the most I can during my student teaching in Lincoln Public Schools as well as in Spain where I will be going for the second half of my student teaching. I hope to continue getting out of comfort zone and growing as a person. Once I graduate, my goal is to teach special education in Grand Island Public Schools and get my master’s degree and English Language Learning endorsement."
Do you have a favorite experience at NWU?
Alberto: "I’ve had many, but one of my favorites was joining the baseball team and traveling to Florida during spring break. I loved being around the guys and coaches as well as traveling to Orlando for the first time. This was also my first time flying on a plane, so that was pretty awesome."
Jacqueline: "Most of all, my favorite experience at NWU has been building connections with professors, staff, and other students. All of the connections I have made while at NWU have made my experience at Wesleyan one of the best!"
My parents have had to sacrifice a lot to give me the education that they weren’t able to have, so being able to graduate from college and give back to them means the world to me.
What else do you do, or have done, on campus?
Alberto: "I am in Theta Chi Fraternity and serve as the service and philanthropy chair. I've also been a part of the baseball team during my time at NWU."
Alexis: "I’m involved with Theta Chi Fraternity where I’m the Vice President of Health and Safety. I’ve been part of Theta Chi all fours years here and held several other positions. Additionally, I’m the Vice President of Philanthropy for Interfraternity Council here on campus, among a variety of other athletic and professional activities."
Jacqueline: "I am currently involved with Wesleyan Entertainment Board, Nebraska Student Education Association - Aspiring Educators (NSEA AE), Alpha Gamma Delta, NWU Catholic, the Diversity Greek Task Force, and Order of Omega, among other activities. I’ve also had the opportunity to be a tutor for Dr. Pfabe and I work at the Center for Student Involvement."
What advice do you have for aspiring first-generation students?
Alberto: "As a first-generation college student, college can be intimidating. The biggest advice I would give is to branch out and build connections. Getting involved in things you like and things that pertain to your field of study is the best way to build connections. College is stressful at times but having fun with your friends makes it a memorable experience."
Jacqueline: "While it will be challenging and there will be a lot of obstacles to overcome, persevere through it, have a growth mindset, and don’t be afraid to ask questions and use the resources offered to you. Most of all, make connections and build relationships. And remember that your future is not defined by where you come from, what matters is where you are going and the work you are willing to do to get there."
What does an education mean to you and your family?
Alexis: "An education means everything to my family and me. For as long as I can remember, my siblings and I were always told that we would go to college, so reaching that point and being in my last year of college is a great accomplishment. For me personally, I know that getting an education will allow me to do many great things and will allow me to achieve my goals. By getting an education, I know that I’ll be able to not only benefit myself, but also give back to the community and others who have helped me get to this point as well as others who have similar goals and aspirations. That’s my ultimate goal."
Jacqueline: "An education means a chance for a better future, a chance to change the path for future generations in our family. My parents moved here from a different country to give my brothers and I a better future and to have a chance for better opportunities and jobs. My parents have had to sacrifice a lot to give me the education that they weren’t able to have, so being able to graduate from college and give back to them means the world to me."