Faces of First Generation

KSU first generation college students give advice to North Cobb High School seniors

Pictured (left to right): First generation college students Huy Tran, Jaeda Boyd, Ivey Hale and…

Georgia (Nov 16, 2015)

Pictured (left to right): First generation college students Huy Tran, Jaeda Boyd, Ivey Hale and Sabrina Kerns

KENNESAW‚ Ga. (Nov. 15, 2015) — Terrence Boykin came to Kennesaw State because he wanted to improve his prospects in life. Growing up in Villa Rica, Ga., in a family of five, Boykin knew his family’s one-bath ranch home wasn’t where he wanted to spend the rest of his life. Besides the cramped surroundings, he said going to college would help him to later provide for his family and give back to them.

“I’m the only one who left and went off to college,” Boykin said with a smile.  

As a first-generation college student – defined as those whose parents never finished bachelor’s degrees – Boykin is among 25 other students who are spending their first semesters in “Be the Change: Quest,” a learning community in KSU’s University College.

“First-generation students often face overwhelming obstacles to their success, including a sense of isolation once they arrive on campus and an utter lack of familiarity with the university culture and its demands,” said Cathy Bradford, director of learning communities at KSU.

“This fall, we piloted the Quest Learning Community for first-generation students to provide customized support and encouragement and for us to learn how we might serve this population on a larger scale in the future.”

Nearly one-third of U.S. college students today are first-generation college students. At Kennesaw State, nearly 4,400 are first-generation students.

During their first few months on campus, the Quest students bonded over their commonalities and shared personal experiences about their path to Kennesaw State. 

Quest students wanted to help next year’s incoming class of first-generation college students, so as part of the course, the class split into small groups and headed into local high schools to talk with high school seniors. They shared resources, personal stories and advice about what to expect in college.

“Our students understand firsthand the challenges of being first-generation college students, but through research, they learned that these problems affect students all around the world,” said Loretta Daniels, instructor in the First-Year and Transition Studies department. “They collaborated as a group to identify the challenges and present solutions for younger students.”

Being the first in their families to earn bachelor’s degrees comes with great responsibility but also the pressure to succeed.

“I thought going to college (as a first-generation student) that I’d be at a disadvantage,” said Devante Norris of Albany.  “I signed up for this learning community to alleviate that disadvantage and help with my success in college.”

Jaeda Boyd, whose military parents strongly encouraged her to attend college, gave savvy advice to high schoolers about getting enough sleep and being determined.

“You might feel like you are doing it all by yourself, and there might be setbacks, but persistence will get you through,” she explained.

Often, parents who never attended college are unsure how to provide appropriate support as their child enters college, according to Daniels. But those parents might be getting a few extra phone calls this year.

“Call your family, no matter how far away you live,” Norris advised the high school seniors. The Quest students also shared information about financial considerations such as scholarships, financial aid and employment, as well as handling procrastination and making good choices.


- Tiffany Capuano; photo by David Caselli 


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu