The path of first generation college students and teachers


Emma Gramm, Feature Editor

A first-generation college student is someone whose immediate family had not received a four-year college or university degree. Increasing percentages of students going to college now compared to previous generations means that  nearly a third of current undergraduate students are the first in their family to attend college. 

For senior Deepak Desor, college fit into his career path of going into oral medicine. Although he will be the first in his family to attend college, high school has led Desor to feel better prepared for what he will take on with the college experience and emphasizes on the importance of using available resources. 

“No one can ever say they are fully prepared for college. Right now I am at a good spot because everything we have been doing in high school has been setting us up for success. At DGN there are so many people that want the best for you, you just have to take the time and effort to find them,” Desor said. 

Social studies teacher Dennis Rogala was the first in his family to work their way into and through college. With high expectations and limited resources as burdens, Rogala found this to be a challenging process. 

“I did not know how college worked, but there was always an expectation that I was going to go to college. If it is all on you to figure it out it can be very overwhelming,” Rogala said. 

Taking on the financial load of going to college can certainly be taxing for young adults. Social studies teacher and first generation college student, Mary Ricklefs, overcame this barrier by taking as many AP classes as she could to qualify as a sophomore for her first year of college.

“Because I knew I was going to pay for college on my own, I took as many AP classes as I could handle successfully,” Ricklefs said. I took what I was good at so I could dedicate my time to those AP credits. I can be an independent person and that is a quality that you need in college.”

DGN provides the support program AVID to prepare students for their high school careers as well as higher academics. The program guides many soon-to-be first-generation college students on their future path.

“AVID helped me a ton. If I wasn’t in AVID and did not have Ms. Mitchell, I don’t think I would go to college. I want a new experience and to have more opportunities in the future,” senior AVID student Ellie Laskowski said.

With the increasing number of students entering the college world, universities have set up many student aid programs and scholarship opportunities for these families. Colleges are compensating more for the students that may lack knowledge on the how-to’s of collegiate logistics. With the counseling and resources DGN provides, students are able to acknowledge the growing opportunities. 

DGN offers a Discovery program where counselors work with freshmen to figure out student interests. In recent years, DGN has also invited many colleges and universities to the school to open up a variety of options for students that are planning on pursuing higher education. 

Principal Janice Schwarze had the experience of being a first-gen college student and had to manage a rigorous lifestyle while simultaneously taking courses and working multiple jobs. Schwarze values incorporating these opportunities into DGN so that students can achieve the same. 

“I valued my education because I had to work really hard for it. The thing I am really proud of with our school is that I think we show all of our students that there are multiple paths for success and college is one of them,” Schwarze said.