By Katie Darragh, communication intern in the Office of University Relations at Marquette University
National First-Generation College Celebration Week occurs every year around Nov. 8 to acknowledge and elevate first-generation college students and alumni identities and contributions. Nov. 8 was selected as National First-Generation College Celebration Day in honor of the signing of the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965. The act was intended to create greater access to higher education for students from minority and low-income backgrounds.
In addition to creating federal grants and loan programs to help students finance their education, HEA ushered in the Federal TRIO programs, necessary for postsecondary access, retention and completion for potential first-generation college students.
Honoring its founding mission, Marquette University is committed to increasing access and offering a transformative Catholic, Jesuit education to many first-generation students, who now make up more than 22% (1 in 5) of our undergraduate student population.
In celebration of National First-Generation College Celebration Day, Marquette Today this week will feature four first-generation students at Marquette, who will share their experience and advice for future students.
Meet Takayla Holmes, a senior double majoring in human resources and supply chain management…
Takayla Holmes’ mom had her at 16 years old and was not able to go to college, but she always wanted every opportunity for her daughter.
“Growing up, my mom didn’t know a lot about anything related to college, but she signed me up for every opportunity she heard of. She just felt like anything was better than nothing,” Takayla remembers.
One such opportunity was Boys and Girls Clubs, which showed her different colleges and helped her with the college process. However, Takayla says, despite this, college was not what she expected.
“What I didn’t understand is when you go to college, your life gets harder and you need support. I found it hard to find that support on campus in my earlier years, but I realized that was just because I didn’t want it,” she says. “I didn’t start speaking up until this semester, so nobody had understood the struggles I was going through.”
This past summer, Takayla’s family was facing homelessness.
“We had to move out of our current place, but every time my mom would go and apply for a place to live, they would take $20 to $25 from her and pull her credit score,” Takayla explains. “She just kept searching and searching for months, but nobody was calling back. If they were calling back, they wanted three to four times the rate just to move in.”
However, Takayla says one mentor at Marquette was able to help her. She reached out to President Michael R. Lovell and shared with him her challenges and frustrations.
“I was so surprised when he messaged me back and we met up,” Takayla says. “President Lovell connected us with someone who was nice enough to rent to me, and he also organized some alumni to donate furniture. My life has changed since sitting down with him.”
Since then, President Lovell has been a mentor to Takayla, and her experience at Marquette has improved.
“President Lovell has been my right-hand guy. I never thought that I could message him, but he actually responds,” Takayla says. “He helps me with a lot and exemplifies the Marquette core values. He’s a real person and he’s here to help you.”
Her advice to students is to be open to opportunity:
“I recommend reaching out early. There are a lot of first-generation students struggling on campus with too much pride to tell someone or ask for resources. First-generation students are often just really closed off because a lot of the time, it’s hard to relate to other students, but be open and try to build as many relationships as possible.”
Marquette has many on-campus resources for student success. For resources specific to first-generation students, see the first-generation college students resource list.