Mike Kilen story
Photos of Ralph Freso
CUU Information Office
At Bazwell Mwale his parents died when he was little and he was placed in an orphanage in South East Africa. Good people from a Kansas church brought him to the United States, where he graduated from high school and went to a year of community college.
He often thought of his family.
“My dream is to become a doctor so that I can return to Malawi. I have seen a lot of my family die from medical problems, including my parents, ”he said.
He is a first generation student at Grand Canyon University, where 1 in 5 new students this year is the first person in their original immediate family to attend college. They face obstacles without family members that can guide them through the financial and logistical stages of higher education and often come under intense pressure to be the new family directing star.
“I have a brother and a sister, and they didn’t have the opportunities that I had. So they turn to me. “How is he going to do it?” »How am I going to help them? Mwale said, just days after arriving at GCU to begin his studies in biology. “There is pressure. I don’t want to let them down.
Connecting first generation students to resources and a community that can guide and facilitate their journey was one of the reasons that the first generation social on Thursday during Welcome Week, hosted by the Associate Students of the University of the Grand Canyon.
President of ASGCU Darion Padilla and vice-president Ben claypool made it a priority this year because first-generation students often have no one to turn to to ask questions about the university. For the first time, ASGCU has a student government senator – Daniela Chavira – whose specific duties are towards first generation students.
Chavira knows what they are going through. She had been translating for her Spanish-speaking and Mexican-native parents since she was a child. “You are 8 years old and you have to translate legal documents,” she said.
Her parents had little knowledge of the college experience when she arrived at GCU with them last year for Welcome Week as a first generation student.
“It was powerful for me to see my parents in front of me, a part of me. … But someone is there to help you. I’m not alone anymore, ”said Chavira.
GCU embraced her not only as a child of immigrant parents. “I was something more than that. I was a human being, ”she said.
While GCU helped her overcome financial complexities and education options, Chavira’s parents could offer this:
“Las pilas bridge. “
Keep on going.
“Their words of encouragement and prayers have been a real blessing. I can’t count on them financially, but I can count on their prayers, ”said Chavira.
The mechanical engineering major wants to encourage other first generation students to continue.
“I always think of the Martin Luther King quote: ‘If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep on. move cheeky. ‘
Las Pilas Bridge.
Often, it takes more than determination.
First-generation students are more likely to come from families with financial difficulties, but a college degree will help alleviate those difficulties.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median weekly salary in 2019 was $ 1,340 for those with a bachelor’s degree and $ 746 for those with only a high school diploma..
“It’s so important and aligns with the president Brian Mueller’s focus on education being the great equalizer, ”said Marette Hahn, Director of Academic Support at the GCU Center of Academic and Professional Excellence. “If we can help first generation students get a bachelor’s degree, we can help play a pivotal role in ending the cycle of poverty. “
First, they must learn the resources available to them.
“I have to do everything alone. No one knows university because I am the first child, the oldest of six children. My dad has a roofing business and my mom works in a cookie store ”, Julia sanchez noted.
She began to realize that she was in good company at the party, where about 50 students walked around the student association tables with refreshments and games. There was evidence all around her of the value of tapping into the GCU community.
Junior Edgar Moreno, an ASGCU senator, said he almost dropped out of freshman because he couldn’t afford college, but once he got involved in the speech and debate of the GCU, the director of forensic medicine Michel Dvorak guided him to a speech scholarship that helped him stay in college.
There was inspiration too, just to be in the midst of the determination of the budding scholars.
Elisabeth frias worked as a phlebotomist for 12 years to save money and finally came to GCU this week to start studying biology soon.
They are not alone, and are even starting their college careers this week.
“I didn’t know what to do with classes. I didn’t even know what the lessons were Armando Velasco noted. “I don’t know any trick, any trick. You don’t get that from your family. You have to find out for yourself.
But with the help of GCU and a Students Inspiring Students scholarship, he’s already figuring it out. He wants to study psychology to help these suffering families.
“When I was younger, I didn’t have a father figure in my life. I wish to be this father figure for others. I want to be there for them, ”he said. “I want to help people. “
Grand Canyon University Senior Writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.
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