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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    First-generation college students motivated at UA

    UA President Robert Shelton, the first person in his family to graduate from a university, stands in the Zona Zoo student section during the Wildcats 16-13 win over Brigham Young University Sept. 2 at Arizona Stadium.
    UA President Robert Shelton, the first person in his family to graduate from a university, stands in the Zona Zoo student section during the Wildcats’ 16-13 win over Brigham Young University Sept. 2 at Arizona Stadium.

    President Robert Shelton said his time working at the post office was a lot of fun, minus the barking dogs.

    Shelton also worked as the night manager of an A&W root beer stand to help pay for college.

    The first in his family to attend college, Shelton took out a small loan to cover some expenses, and then worked the two jobs to pay the money back.

    Shelton said that after he graduated in 1966 from Shadle Park High School in Spokane, Wash., he thumbed through the Big Book of Colleges to search for perspective universities.

    His parents, who were both high school graduates, suggested college because Shelton demonstrated skill in math and science.

    With the help of a neighbor who gave him the money to cover the cost of application fees, Shelton applied to the University of Washington, Gonzaga University and Stanford University.

    Although he was accepted to all three schools, Shelton decided on Stanford, which offered him a scholarship.

    “”From there, I was thrown into the fray,”” Shelton said as he described getting acclimated to his first year at college.

    The motivation to succeed came from many different places, Shelton said.

    “”Certainly it came in the sense that I wanted better earning power than my family had,”” he said. “”But I knew I wanted a career in science, and I had such intellectual curiosity.””

    Especially for college students, it is important to remember to take things one step at a time, Shelton said.

    “”You don’t get a career, you build a career by taking one job at a time,”” he said.

    Shelton’s experience is an example to many UA students who are the first from their families to go to college.

    Lindsay Sparks, a journalism junior, said she chose to go to college to obtain a well-paying job.

    “”To get a good job, it is helpful to have a degree,”” Sparks said. “”UA is a fairly inexpensive place to do it.””

    Sparks, a Saguaro High School graduate, said she feels that being the first from her family to go to college motivates her to succeed.

    “”My whole family is excited for me, so I feel like I have to a good job,”” Sparks said. “”My mom hangs my dean’s list certificates on the fridge.””

    Sparks said her younger sister is now following in her footsteps by attending college.

    Ali Gaona, a senior majoring in English and creative writing who is also a first-generation college student, said the decision to go to college came from years of parental advice.

    “”Since I was a kid, my parents instilled in me the importance of getting the most out of education,”” Gaona said.

    Although classes can be difficult, Gaona said as the first from her family to go to college, she also feels motivated to succeed.

    There are many resources available at the UA to ensure that students succeed.

    The Minority Student Recruitment department can help prospective first-generation college students waive the university application fee, making the application process easier for low-income and minority families, according to the UA Web site.

    For already-enrolled students, there are resources from the University Learning Center, which provides tutoring and class help, and the SALT and Disability Resource centers, which devote extra attention to students with documented learning disorders.

    “”Embrace this university as your own,”” Shelton advised students. “”Everyone has times of moments and doubt. You have to savor the experiences you have in life, because each goes into making you as a person.””

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