Rutgers University has long been a leader in serving the needs of first-generation students. During the week of November 8-13, 2020, the university is reaffirming that commitment as it marks a national First-Generation College Celebration organized by the Council for Opportunity in Education and Center for First-generation Student Success.
The School of Arts and Sciences is proud to join in this event. The stories below highlight SAS students, alumni, and faculty, ranging from a hospital CEO to a neuroscience graduate student to a current undergraduate who extends a helping hand to the next generation by volunteering summers as a facilitator for for Upward Bound, the federally-funded college preparation program.
“It was easy putting myself in their shoes, because I have been in their shoes,” says Jonelsy Gonzalez.
Inspired by Blue-Collar Parents, an Alumnus Helps the Next Generation
Mike Azzara grew up in a working-class town where fewer than half the kids in his senior class went to college. But Azzara’s parents had different expectations. “There was never any question I would be going to college,” said Azzara, who graduated high school in 1965. “It was the expectation from the get-go.”
Latino and Caribbean Studies
Jonelsy Gonzalez entered Rutgers with the intention of pursuing a major in criminal justice. By second semester she felt compelled to add Latino and Caribbean studies as a second major. Her teachers nourished her intellectual curiosity, encouraged her to question long-held assumptions, and stretched her knowledge of the world, including the legacy of colonialism.
A Humanities Professor’s Enduring Connection with Students
Richard Serrano tells students the story of how his father had been discouraged from going to college by a guidance counselor who suggested he become a television repairman. Serrano would go on to become the first in his family to attend college, receiving strong encouragement from his father.
Rutgers Graduate Mixed Activism with Academics and is Poised for Career as a Scholar
A double major in political science and Latino and Caribbean studies, Geidy Mendez was one of 14 in the nation selected for a national political science summer program. A graduate in the Rutgers class of 2019, Mendez is now a graduate student in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine.
His Research Mission: Solving the Mysteries of Mental Illness
Andres Villegas grew up in Elizabeth, the son of a single mom who had emigrated from Ecuador. He was uncertain about his future, and undecided about college. “I felt lost in high school,” Villegas says. “I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life.”