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CMU Recognizes First-Generation Students

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Colorado Mesa University joined college campuses across the nation celebrating those who are the first members of their families to earn college degrees. 

Senior at CMU, Celeste Martinez, will soon become the first in her family to get a college degree. She thinks back to her mom and dad from Honduras and Mexico, who never graduated from college. 

"They have gone through so much being here but they've also worked their butts off to be who they are and help us get where we've been," said Martinez.  

The path to her educational success has been an unforeseen challenge. 

"I think not knowing how much financial responsibility we have to be involved with because my parents never did a FAFSA."  

But with organizations like TRiO, first-generation students are exposed to an unlimited amount of opportunities. 

"We do personal financial literacy so understanding how to do budgets, understanding FAFSA, scholarship attainment," said Melisa Calhoon, Director of TRiO Student Services at CMU.  

Becoming a student leader and a resident assistant, has made Martinez's college experience much smoother. 

"There's not one person that's getting benefits over another because we're a first-gen or because we're not first-gen, I think CMU does a great job in being inclusive," said Martinez.  

It's an emotional struggle that will soon lead Martinez to walk across a stage and become the first member of her family to become a college graduate. 

Martinez is one of five CMU students who spoke Thursday morning about her experience being a first-generation student at the second annual Fearless First Celebration.

The event is a chance to raise awareness about the struggles and perseverance of students whose parents did not receive a college education. 

The date marks the 53rd anniversary of the signing of the 1965 Higher Education Act which has helped students become the first members of their families to earn college degrees. 

CMU says 44% of their student population are first generation students and in the last school year, there were 782 first generation graduates. 

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