(Abilene, Texas – November 4, 2021) McMurry University will honor its first-generation students, faculty, staff, and alumni on Monday, November 8, in recognition of the National First-Generation College Celebration. McMurry estimates that its current student body is 37 percent first-generation students, who contribute to the University’s rich diversity and offer inspiration in their determination to overcome economic, language, and social obstacles to achieve a quality college education.
“Many first-generation students experience the challenge of navigating institutional protocols,” said Dr. Cindy Martin, associate vice president for student success, academic affairs division. “What I mean by protocols is the lack of familiarity with the processes that may arise. These include things such as the rigors of college life, how to take care of a hold, or how to identify available resources. They also may feel extreme pressure to excel because they grasp the true cost of an education. They may not have a parent to ask for advice. Their family may be sacrificing its own quality of life to make college happen for them.”
Three success stories are below:
Ali Kidd ‘22, Student
“My father graduated high school in 1981 and that was the furthest education in my family. My brother was born with a rare disease that required everyone’s attention, so I often fell behind in the shadows. As I grew older, school became my safe place and outlet. I was somebody in those four walls and loved every minute of school. My parents divorced when I was two but stayed together to support my brother’s medical needs. In my junior and senior years of high school, I lived on my own and worked part-time. These were some of the hardest years academically, but I pushed through and barely graduated with my class in 2010. When it came to the thought of college and what was next, I just knew I wanted to get away from everything and everyone I knew. I planned my move to Texas, but God stopped me in my tracks when I was told I more than likely had MS or a brain tumor. I completed my community college work with little to no advice or guidance. Afterwards my son was born, and I put college and education on the back burner. During my time at McMurry, there have been several hurdles, but I did it! If you’re feeling like you just can’t push through another day, you can and you will. Do it for yourself. You’re most deserving of this accomplishment and your determination may be someone else’s inspiration. Pick your head up and do it!”
Dr. Alicia Wyatt, Faculty and Administrator
“My grandfather finished 8th grade and pursued a GED after his service in the Korean War. My mother graduated from high school early to get married at 17. I grew up working in the cotton fields in the summer, and was set on going to college to escape a life of manual labor on the farm from an early age. A family friend completed a PhD when I was in high school, and I typed his dissertation on an old manual typewriter set on top of a metal milk crate in my bedroom. His handwriting was terrible and the typist refused to work from a manuscript written on yellow lined paper. That was when I decided that I was perfectly capable of going to college, earning a doctorate, and teaching at the college level. So I did. It has made all the difference in my own well-being and personal satisfaction with where I am in life. So now, I try to give back and encourage others to create a space where they can succeed in what might feel like a very foreign environment. If a girl from the farm can do it, I hope they can.”
Victoria Garza-Roark ‘19, Academic Coach and McMurry Alumnus
“I became an unaccompanied youth at the age of 16. I had lost my mother to pancreatic cancer. She was the backbone of my family. My mother married young and did not graduate high school, but worked hard to provide for her family. She taught me to be independent. I worked as an overnight hotel clerk to provide for myself and later help pay my grandmother’s bills. I was blessed to have the guidance of local nonprofits and the support of my career and technology education employer who introduced me to McMurry as a good fit for me. I accomplished many personal goals during my undergraduate years but suffered the loss of my grandmother and mother-in-law. I was also a victim of stalking and assault, but I didn’t let any of it interfere with my goal. After all, I had promised my mother I would make something of myself. With the support of my partner, science faculty, financial aid counselors, and McMurry registrar, I was able to graduate debt-free and with my teaching certification. Each experience built my resilience and now I am here to pay it forward.”
About National First-Generation College Celebration
November 8 honors the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. HEA emerged from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty and helped to level the playing field for individuals from minority and low-income backgrounds. HEA also produced the Federal TRIO program to promote access to postsecondary education. TRIO comprises eight initiatives, including Student Support Services (SSS), a grant-based program. McMurry has participated in SSS since 2020 with an annual grant of $261,888. The funding supports the needs of low-income and first-generation college students and those with disabilities.
“McMurry University proudly embraces and supports students, faculty, staff, and alumni who exemplify the spirit of highly motivated first-generation students,” said Dr. Jessica Thompson, project director of the McMurry TRIO program. “The introduction of the TRIO program in 2020 has provided first-generation students with more resources to help them achieve their educational goals. From coaching and tutoring to career counseling and more, McMurry is dedicated to ensuring these pioneers attain the dream of a college degree.”