COLLEGE IS A LOT DIFFERENT THAN HIGH SCHOOL. Things cost a lot more and classes get a lot harder. The idea of being away from home is great to some, but really hard on others. Gaining the “Freshman 15” happens when you least expect it and going to sleep at 3 a.m. becomes a normal routine. Stress seems to be at its fullest level at all times and all your friends end up getting married before you do. College is definitely an experience filled with life long memories. Roughly 30% of new incoming freshman are first generation students—the first in their family to get a college degree. 87% of first generation students will leave college within the next six years without a college degree. They are more likely to drop about because of financial, social and emotional complications, while having a negative mindset of not belonging.
Two OKWU students—Amber Brown and Ashley Burnett—have beat the odds and stereotypes of not making it to or through college. With both being first generation students, they will be graduating in May, still intending to get their masters degree in the near future.
AMBER BROWN IS FROM DALLAS, TEXAS. With tons of support from her family; she fulfilled her dreams of going to college here at OKWU on a soccer scholarship. She is a Psychology major, and this upcoming fall she will be join the Lubbock Christian University counseling program to get her Masters. Looking back on her college experience she said, “At first I felt out of place and judged. Trying to maintain schoolwork, family, and relationships got heavy and I kept asking myself, “When is this going to be done?” But with the support of my family and teachers like Professor Dalene Fisher, I’m fulfilling my dreams of becoming a role model and what I always have wanted to be, a helper.”
Amber said that after being in soccer for a semester, she realized: “I wasn’t just on a team, I gained a family. My team means so much to me. Soccer has taught me time management, patience, responsibility, gratitude, and I gained a life long best friend that means the world to me.” No matter how tough college seemed to get for Amber, she continued to fight to achieve her goals. With so many people supporting Amber, she said she couldn’t have done it without them. “My mom, “Master P” and my grandma, “Gran Gran”, are awesome. They have been there through everything with me. My mom gives me the best advice always and my grandma is so avid in wanting to see me succeed, she loves me so much. It’s nice knowing my family is there for me no matter what.”
Not only was family there for Amber, she said she wouldn’t even have known what to do to get her Masters if it wasn’t for Professor Fisher. “She is just awesome. The way she teaches is so clear and very helpful. She is very understanding and everything about her is spot on. Professor Fisher gave me the best advice on what I needed to do, and always gave me support. She is a great mentor.”
Amber’s future plans in family counseling are all about helping others. She says she wants to stay in Texas to “give families different resources when handling tough situations, making them stronger. Not to change them, but to make them better.” Amber’s biggest goal is to be a good role model and to succeed. She is showing people that you can do it and that it doesn’t take special people to break stereotypes. It all matters on how much hard word and dedication you put in to fulfilling your dreams.
ASHLEY BURNETT IS FROM SCOTLAND. With her family pushing her to succeed, she made the decision to leave home and come to OKWU to get the education she has always wanted. “I already went to college for three years back at home,” Ashley said, “so I already had the college experience. The fact that I had to leave home and move to another country was hard. I had mixed emotions, but I was very excited to see where my life was headed.” Ashley is majoring in Exercise Science and is planning on furthering her education at OKWU by getting a Masters in Business.
“My plans for the future include my love for soccer. I want to be a soccer coach, and eventually own my own soccer academy,” said Ashley. Ashley, just like Amber, plays soccer here at Oklahoma Wesleyan. She has also been affected in so many ways by having a family and not just a team that she played with for years. Ashley really loves soccer and getting a scholarship to play here in America has blessed her with so much.
But even Ashley struggled at times: “Trying not to get stressed out or keeping a positive bank balance was hard on me. But no matter how hard it got, I always had someone to help me out. I have the best roommates ever. We are all always there for each other, loving through the good times and the bad.” Not only were her friends there for her, Ashley had a great mentor as well. “Dr. Harter, my statistics professor is amazing. She is funny and breaks everything down, which really helps out a lot. Her teaching just makes you want to learn and not a lot of professors can do that. Plus she makes us brownies, and that’s the way to win my heart.”
Amber and Ashley have both achieved their dreams of being the first in their family to go to college. Breaking stereotypes, these two girls have proved that if you have enough dedication and want to succeed, you can do anything that you put your mind to.