Arts & Sciences

Celebrating first-generation students: sophomore Darrell Campbell shares his experience and advice 

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 Week, Marquette Today this week will feature four first-generation students at Marquette, who will share their experience and advice for future students. 

Meet Darrell Campbell, sophomore double majoring in criminology and law studies and social justice and welfare… 

Darrell Campbell’s parents went to college later in their adult life but were not able to finish, and so it was always his goal to graduate with a college degree. Self-motivated toward success, Darrell was his own advocate through the application process. 

“It was really just me going through the application process,” he recalls. “I tried to utilize all resources, but it was definitely a struggle not having much support as to what to do or what direction to go in. However, I didn’t want to be a product of the community that I was in. I saw a lot of people who didn’t go to college and weren’t successful. I didn’t want to be like that. I wanted to get a degree to help me in the future.” 

Despite getting into Marquette, his challenges continued.  

“When I started college, my grandmother was very sick before she passed, so I was juggling trying to help take care of her and going to class,” Darrell says. “I have a certain appreciation for what I was going through that semester and know that my grandmother would be proud of my accomplishments.”  

He attributes a lot of his current success to mentors at Marquette who have helped him through difficult times.  

“I thank God for JohnRae Stowers and Darryle (DJ) Todd who have been amazing advisers, leaders, Marquette parents, spiritual advisers and overall listening ears,” Darrell says. “There have been many times where I didn’t know what direction my life was turning and they reminded me to stay steadfast, diligent and remember my ‘why.’ Going into my second semester after losing my grandmother, they really supported me and help me overcome that struggle.” 

Thanks to his hard work and determination, Marquette has been able to offer him opportunities that he hopes will improve his future and the future of his community.  

“Coming to Marquette has opened lot of doors. I am currently an Urban Scholar, Honors Program student, student director of Inclusive Initiatives, and running for Black Student Council president. So, I am all over the place, but with all this experience, one day I hope to give back to my community by creating education policy for underserved communities. 

“I hope to provide those communities access to resources, information on how to navigate through college preparedness, and I want to ensure that high school, middle school and elementary school children of color know that college is possible,” Campbell says. 

For incoming first-generation students, Campbell offers this advice: 

“Do not let a lack of college awareness keep you from diving in — dive in and overcome, utilize all your resources and find your people who will support you to and through college.”

Marquette has many on-campus resources for student success. For resources specific to first-generation students, see the first-generation college students resource list