By JORDAN NELSON
BECKLEY, W.Va. — Over half of WVU Tech’s student population is compiled of first generation and low-income students, and to celebrate them, faculty and staff who are among the first in their immediate family to attend college the school held a ceremony Thursday to honor and recognize those individuals.
President Lyndon Johnson signed the Higher Education Act in 1965 to help low and middle income families, smaller colleges and to address poverty in the U.S.
“That act he signed, it helped us get here,” WVU Tech President Carolyn Long said. “And now, over five decades later, we have so many services to help all of our students, but especially those who are first generation, to make sure they get the things they need as the move along in their college career.”
Long said everyone on the WVU Tech campus knows how important it is to receive an education.
“A lot of us wouldn’t be standing here if we wouldn’t have gotten the help we needed when we began attending college, and that’s what we’re all here to do, to help.”
Many first generation students struggle to find their path when first attending college, but Long said there should not be anything out of reach for them.
“That should not ever, ever happen.”
Assistant Dean of TRIO and Diversity at WVU Tech Scott Robertson said being a first generation college student is a unique experience.
“Just because you graduate as a first generation student doesn’t mean your first generation journey ends there,” he said. “You may be the first in your family to fly on a plane, buy a house or own a car.”
“That’s more additional newness that you can’t pin on a parent or guardian who have not experienced those things.”
Robertson called being a first generation student “a badge of honor.”
“With WVU Tech being largely populated with first generation students and staff and faculty, it’s important the students currently enrolled are able to identify with staff and faculty who have gone through the same process as them,” he said. “They need mentors.”
Senior Kylie Lang is among the first in her family to potentially gain a college degree. Her older sister gave the college experience a shot, but shortly realized it was not for her.
“I don’t think school is for everyone,” Lang said. “But when my sister didn’t make it through, I made it my goal to try and achieve a degree.”
“My parents, they didn’t go to college, but they knew how important it was to me to go.”
Lang said she began looking at colleges when she was a junior in high school.
“I’ve known from the beginning I wanted to further my education,” she said. “And no one was going to stop me.”
President Long said if students work and study hard, WVU Tech will do anything and everything to help them be successful.
“To our first generation Golden Bears — you are smart, capable and ready for success just as much as any other person,” Long said. “Because of all your hard work and ambition you will graduate and earn that degree you never thought you could.”
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