I Am First!

  Click on the "share your story" link on the right!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Education Is Something No One Can Ever Take Away From You

Joining in the celebration a bit late, but #firstgenandproud. As the daughter of a mother who always did the most with what she had, helped me believe that I could achieve everything I dreamed, and taught me that education is something no one can ever take away from you. I know how important a support system is to a first gen college student, and have an idea of how hard it is for a parent to provide all the support they want to their child when they have never been there themselves. When I started at UNE (actually when it came time to pay the first tuition bill) my mom and I had NO idea what we were doing. It was stressful, it was scary, and I can only imagine what it was like for her. Through a lot of hard work I am not only the first to graduate from college, but I have a master's degree as well (I earned it when I was only 25!) Thank you to all of my supports, I hope I am making you proud. Now I teach high school, and I hope that I can support more students who want to go to college (especially the first genners), but need help figuring out that they can!

-Ashley Polson
Chemisty Teacher
Former UB Staff Member
Technically, I am not the first in my family to go to college. I have aunts, uncles and even a parent who have gone to college. The difference for me however is that my Father, who went to college, did not graduate from USM with a B.S in Biology until 2010, when I was already a freshman in high-school. Though I am proud pf him for doing so, he had the ability to go when he graduated from high-school in 1989 but basically chose not to because of an argument within the family. In addition, he also hasn't really used his degree since he got it.
Moving forward to more about myself, after my parents divorced when I was about 5. After we moved to Massachusetts when I was 10 or so, we moved around a lot, making it difficult for me to get settled at school. After finally moving to Skowhegan my junior year, I became part of a few clubs and programs, one of which was Upward Bound. While I had always known that I would go to college, the thought of how I was going to pay for it or where I was going to go was daunting. I also wanted to stay close to family, and didn't apply to any colleges outside of the state.
After I graduated in 2014, I attended the University of New England for my freshman year, and while I loved the campus and the professors, the passing of my grandfather (one of my biggest supporters) and the fact I was commuting from my Mom's in Old Orchard made it hard to connect with many people on campus. I then decided UMaine was the place I wanted to be, and after living on campus for a couple months, family problems created a need for me at home (my father lives close to campus) and I moved off campus. While I was happy there, I still found it difficult to feel at place on campus but was doing fairly well in classes.
After meeting my now husband through a mutual friend, I decided to transfer to UMF, where I have since felt more comfortable with my classes

I suppose one of the biggest things I've always tried to keep in mind is the fact that no matter how challenging things may be now, that the end outcome will be worth it. That I need to not only do this to make my family proud of me, but that I need to do it to better myself as well. Upward Bound provided me with a lot of confidence in the process of applying for college and everything there after. Just always remember that you are worth it and that " if there's a will, there's a way". There are many options when it comes to paying for college, so don't think that it's out of reach just because you're family may not have a lot of money or if your parents didn't attend college. 

-Linda Welch
UMF Student
Upward Bound Alumna

It Can Open Doors

I was the first person in my family to go to college. However, I attended only one year and then dropped out for almost 10 years. During this time, I worked full-time and was eventually able to return to school part-time. Overall, it took me almost 15 years to complete my bachelor's degree! But it was so worth it and I continued on to earn my master's degree. My advice is to stay in school and finish if you can. And never give up on your dream of earning your degree! It can open doors that you might not even imagine today.
-Carla Degraw
UMF Registrar

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

I Can't Wait To Be The Person My Students Need

It was always an expectation for myself that I would go to college. I was the quiet student who got good grades and participated in numerous after school activities.While I was the stereotypical good-to-do student there was a lot going on at home that came close to stopping me from attending college.The police knew our house so well that most of them knew where our house was. I struggled with anxiety and depression that I kept secret from everyone I knew. I was drowning. No one in my family knew how to apply to college, how to handle finances, or could give me advice about college life. With a few pushes from people who love me, many tears, and some kind of miracle I got into college even with my family being extremely poor. Even though I'm going into a profession that does not pay very much (teaching) I know that I will have the privilege of doing something I have a passion for--an idea my family is not familiar with. UMF has helped me grow. The people here helped transform my idea of the world into something much brighter and broader than what I thought before. I can't wait to be the person my students need.
-Josline Watkins
UMF Student

It Took Work

I remember waiting with my parents and sister at the Portland Jetport - it would be my first time ever on a plane, and I'd be traveling to Arizona, alone. I remember being really quiet, a little hum of anxiety resonating deeply, as I waited to board. I think my parents were a little scared, too. I was the first in my family to go to college and no matter how much they loved and supported me, they also knew they had nothing to tell me about what this first semester would be like, what the college experience entailed. What should have been exciting was instead terrifying and confusing. That first year of college was HARD. I got great grades, but inside I felt lost, alone, so out of my depth.
Everyone around me seemed to know the rules and expectations. Students my own age seemed somehow more mature, acted more confidently. I wondered about my place in all of this, wondered if college was where I belonged. Following that first year, a year that had involved transferring to UMF after a semester in Arizona, my experience of college changed dramatically. I joined Student Senate and played intramurals. I got a work-study job on campus. I made friends. I made UMF my home. It took WORK. And I guess that’s why I am a proud first generation student. I determined, for myself, to make UMF a place where I belonged and I made it so. Success bred success. The college experience is so much about academics, but it is so much more. First-gen students who come out the other side, with degrees and diplomas in hand, should be so very PROUD of the accomplishment!
-Larry Ronco
Academic Advisor and Mathematics Instructor, Johnson Scholars 
UMF Alumnus '93

Teachers Who Encouraged Me

While my parents and family supported me greatly in my dream of going to college, none of them understood how financial aid, housing, or the application process worked. At one point I thought that maybe it would just be easier if I didn’t go to college at all. But I had a lot of great teachers who encouraged me to follow through with my goal and gave me the skills I needed to make it in college. My wonderfully wacky math teacher taught me perseverance, my good-natured AP history teacher taught me resilience, my cheerful class advisors taught me self-confidence. I also ended up becoming involved in Upward Bound - a program filled with wonderful people who showed me exactly how to write an outstanding college essay, fill out the FAFSA, apply for scholarships, etc. Now that I’m at UMF I realize how lucky I am and how proud I should be to have made it to college as a first generation college student. I will forever be thankful to my family and those teachers and Upward Bound staff members who helped me to achieve my dream of attending college.
UMF Student
Upward Bound Alumna

To Go Where My Money Cannot Take Me

I always knew I wanted to go to college. In my earliest years I just wanted to go to college because it was a long term sleepover. Later on into my education I came to love learning. I thrived in school, loved school, desired more school and came to realize I needed it.
My mother is on permanent disability and my father has worked himself to the bone building houses to make up for the loss of income. My father is amazing but he is only human and I do not want to follow in his footsteps. A degree is my way to a comfortable career that can support myself, my family, and some future global adventures. School will enable me to do so much.
School has already brought me the opportunity to be a student ambassador to my high school's sister school in China. It has given me the ability to go where my money cannot take me because I worked hard to get good grades. I plan on studying abroad in Beijing, China next academic year, going to graduate school, and developing study abroad programs for low-income students in the future. 

UMF Student
Johnson Scholar