Celebrating the first generation of La Salle students
The students, as the first in their families to pursue a four-year study, share how La Salle continues to support them.
The college experience challenges every student. For first-generation students, generally defined as students whose parents have not completed a four-year college degree, these challenges can be particularly unique and at times intimidating.
Without guidance from their families on the admissions process and campus life, for example, first-generation students often go through these times independently, while trying to meet and exceed rigorous academic standards.
La Salle University has always maintained its commitment to enroll and support its first generation students. With first-generation students making up 30 percent of its student body, La Salle typically exceeds the national average of 24 percent.
“Having the ability to engage first generation students inside and outside the classroom and provide them with professional results when they graduate from our university is at the heart of what we do. every day, ”said Dawn M. Soufleris, Ph.D., Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management at La Salle. “For many of us on the faculty and staff at La Salle, including myself, we identify as first generation students and we have collectively dedicated ourselves to supporting these students every day and in everything. that we do.”
La Salle joins other universities and colleges across the country in celebrating National Day of First Generation Colleges Celebration on Saturday, November 8. This initiative, established by higher education student affairs administrators, represents an opportunity to honor the achievements of first generation students. students.
Let’s meet some of La Salle’s first generation students:
Double major in Finance and Management and Leadership
Having moved in and out of foster care throughout her youth, Vanessa Green’s education has not been easy. Although in retrospect, Green acknowledged that the lack of domestic stability during her formative years had helped her prepare for the obstacles faced by a first-generation college student.
“I had to grow up really early, become independent and learn a lot of new things,” said Green, a senior from Folcroft, PA. “It was a tough trip, but it was worth every trial or obstacle I encountered. along the way. It certainly helped me prepare for college.
The youngest of five siblings in her biological family, Green has shown resilience and resourcefulness throughout her time at La Salle. She saved enough money through studies and internships to rent an off-campus apartment after her sophomore year and raised funds to cover the expenses of a study trip to Chile last year.
Green also made the most of his opportunities outside of the classroom. Two internships at KPMG culminated in a job offer with the accounting firm Big Four as a tax associate in the practice of valuation and economics, which Green will begin in fall 2021, not to mention the skills that she can use to support her community.
“Learning to do taxes for individuals is something that few foster kids have the opportunity to do,” Green said. “Being able to learn these things and share them with people I know and people in my community is wonderful.”
Green credited the La Salle community with facilitating her transition to higher education and helping her reach her potential.
“There have been a lot of professors, especially at the School of Business, who know my background and offered any kind of help or advice I needed and made me feel welcome,” Green said. . “I am very grateful for these people in my life.”
Major in Accounting
As a first generation minority student, Emanuel Ocasio had serious doubts about entering university.
“As a Hispanic person, I had to face many challenges,” said Ocasio, whose father, originally from Puerto Rico, never graduated from high school. “I kept thinking, ‘What am I getting myself into?’ What am I going to get out of it? ‘ “
A longtime member of the La Salle community helped Ocasio, a senior from Reading, Pa., Overcome those doubts.
During an internship at Elliott-Lewis, a Philadelphia-based HVAC services company, Ocasio developed a relationship with business executives including President and CEO William Sautter, ’71. Sautter, the former chairman of La Salle’s board of directors, and other executives encouraged Ocasio to pursue accounting studies at La Salle. The company covered the balance of Ocasio’s tuition fees after the financial aid under its employee benefits program with Elliott-Lewis, where Ocasio works as a database coordinator.
“Administrator Sautter is investing in my education to provide a different perspective in the workplace,” said Ocasio, who transferred to La Salle before his freshman year through La Salle’s dual admission partnership with the Community College of Philadelphia. “I was able to work my way up there while continuing my studies in accounting.
Ocasio hopes his trip will inspire other members of his family to follow his example.
“Motivating future generations of my own family to do the same is what drives me,” Ocasio said. “What inspires me is being able to show my nephews, nieces and cousins, ‘It’s a tough road to take, but there are a lot of benefits and opportunities that come with it.'”
Major in social work
Life can get in the way of your pursuit of a college education and cause you to graduate many years later.
Both are true for Andrea Harris, a 50-year-old part-time continuing education student from Philadelphia.
After experiencing what she described as a “defining, life-changing event” at age 40, Harris decided it was time to go back to college. She graduated from high school and only completed one semester at another university in town before leaving.
“I always wanted to continue my education, but life came and I started living it,” said Harris, the youngest of six siblings. “Between a life-changing event and the start of another decade of life, it was time for another change and that became the catalyst for researching what La Salle had to offer. It was the perfect fit at the perfect time, and I have been able to maintain my Dean’s List status for 10 years now.
Harris’s schedule includes not only his classes, but also a part-time social work job as a Therapeutic Staff Support Worker (TSS) for children with autism. She admitted that the workload sometimes made her feel like she took on more than she could handle.
“There were those semesters where I said, ‘Why am I doing this? What’s the point? ‘ Harris said. “But the mental courage it takes to endure this is something I’m very proud of. This allows me to continue.
Ultimately, Harris said she would like to help first responders deal with the workplace trauma they’ve suffered.
“I want to work with people who wake up in the morning to deal with trauma,” said Harris, who hopes to graduate from social work by 2022. “Where do they go when they have to deal with their own trauma? I would like to help these people in a capacity that will provide them with a safe space for their release. “
Major in health not declared
Diamond McClain’s mother made it perfectly clear to her daughter that if she wanted to go to college, she would have the support of her mother, but it would be up to her to make it work financially.
“My mom had me when she was a teenager, and college wasn’t her thing,” said McClain, a freshman from Philadelphia. “She always told me that if you decide to go to college, that will be something you do. She said, “You have to work hard and get the scholarships. She did not take out a loan and if I did take out a loan, I had to take one out in my name.
McClain took the academic and administrative initiative to be able to afford college, and now finds himself working to become a nursing major at La Salle. Ultimately, McClain would like to pursue a master’s degree in nursing. For now, she is focused on and grateful for the opportunities she receives as a first generation student.
“It’s really personal to me,” McClain said. “Once you get your education, no one can take it away from you. It’s something that will stay with me forever. For me, going to university is about creating new paths, meeting different people and doing different things.
“If I ever feel like I’m struggling or if I really need help, I know where to go or who to ask for help,” she added. “I can’t ask my mother, or an aunt or uncle for help with nursing duties, but I can turn to my teachers or my educational advisor, who are there for me. help and become my La Salle family.
– Patrick Berkery