California State University, Fresno
First Generation Stories


Help Along the Way

President John Welty Read President John D. Welty's story at this link.

First Generation Story Project

Stories are listed alphabetically by the story writer's last name.

Propelled by Expectations: Shirley Melikian Armbruster, Director of News Services - University Communications
Shirley Melikian Armbruster
"Tsahkuhs," said grandmother Virginia, using an Armenian term of endearment, "when you go to college (not "if") we'll be so proud of you."
Making a Difference: Roy Bohlin, Professor - Curriculum and Instruction
Roy Bohlin
When I shared my uncertainty about college with an adult friend, he assured me "You're making the right choice. Life with a college education will be much better than your family has experienced and the jobs your friends settled for."
Drafting a Plan for My Future: Mike Botwin, Professor - Psychology, and Chair of the Academic Senate
Mike Botwin
I graduated with a 2.8 GPA. Even so, a high school counselor dropped me a handwritten note suggesting that I take the ACT for college. I didn’t know the ACT was a college entrance exam, or that I should study or take it seriously.
It's Never Too Late to Get an Education: Robin Button, Web Developer - Academic Affairs
Robin Button
Although I worked on campus, it was frightening to return to the classroom after 20 years. How would I fit in with students who were right out of high school? My math background was limited.
Care Packages: Lori Clune, Lecturer - History
Lori Clune
Supportive as my parents were of my education, when I decided to go to graduate school, they were skeptical. "Why?" they asked. "What more do you need to learn?"
Putting Fear in Perspective: Tanya Crabb - University Outreach Services
Tanya Crabb
My grades were average at best and I knew nothing about financial aid. All I knew was smart people with money went to college and I was neither.
Living Up to My Own Expectations: Guy Decatrel, Lecturer - Marketing and Logistics
Guy Decatrel
During this time, I worked several jobs and learned to take charge, to be responsible, and not wait to get things done.
With Education, the Doors Will Open: José A. Díaz, Associate Dean - College of Arts and Humanities
Jose Diaz
During these family times, mom and dad impressed on us the importance of doing well and staying in school. My dad didn’t want us to suffer through life as a hard laborer the way he did.
A Sheep Herder's Kid: Making It in America: Jeri Echeverria, Provost and Vice President - Academic Affairs
Jeri Echeverria
What my folks talked about was "making it in America." Dad used to say, "If you want to make it in America, you got to go to school."
The Ring and the Necklace: Christine Edmondson - Associate Professor, Psychology
Lori Clune
My father never talked much about his tutoring when I was growing up; but, I always knew reading was important to him and he instilled that value in me.
Setting Your Priorities: Filomena Fagundes - Information Technology Services
Filomena Fagundes
What began as a goal to get promoted ended up as a self-fulfillment goal. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it; be a mom, work full-time and attend school full-time.
Sometimes It Takes Plain "Stick-to-it-ness": Betty Garcia, Professor - Social Work Education
. . . somehow I had an understanding early in life that it was important to develop economic independence and, retrospectively, I now see that a secret, magical element was sheer tenaciousness.
You Don’t Have to Lose Your Values and Traditions: Luz Gonzalez, Dean - College of Social Sciences
Luz Gonzalez
I was an excellent fieldworker and could have made a lot of money, but my dad was the center of my life. . . . I realized that I needed to speak the language the doctors and nurses spoke so I could protect him and assure that he got good medical care.
If God Gave You a Good Brain . . . : Grace Hatmaker, Lecturer - Nursing
Grace Hatmaker
My eyes burned from the cigar smoke . . . or was it from tears of indignation? I volunteered in the Accident Ward, so I knew I wanted to go to college. I wanted to be a nurse.
Square Holes in the Ground: Karla Hutchens - Procurement and Support Services
Karla Hutchens
It was a solitary pursuit during those years, with no family guidance or encouragement, no one to remind me that I had a paper due or that I needed to study for an exam.
A College Education: It Only Took Three Generations of Women: ChrisTina Leimer, Director - Institutional Research, Assessment and Planning
ChrisTina Leimer
My father wanted me to quit high school and go to work in a factory. We didn’t need the money, but it would be good for me. It would require the discipline he thought I lacked. For me, this plan was death.
Finding My Own Direction: Jack McDermott, Professor - English
Jack McDermott
By the end of my sophomore year, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and totally confused. I just couldn’t see what to do next. So I dropped out of college, moved back home, and took a job in the stockroom of a nearby department store.
Dreams Can Come True: Maxine McDonald, Executive Director, Student Success Services
Maxine McDonald
Sometimes I felt guilty, that the $3 a day I brought in wasn’t contributing enough to the family. On the plantations in the deep South in the 1960s, everyone was so poor that we all had to work.
From the Shadow of the Steel Mills: David M. Moll, Director - Public Safety
David Moll
For as long as I remember, I had to work. From simple jobs for the neighbors to my first real job at a ladies’ clothing factory, right through my college years, I always had a job.
Opportunity and Responsibility: Paul M. Oliaro, Vice President - Student Affairs/Dean of Students
Paul Oliaro
Those two mentors, along with my parents' sacrifices and blind faith in a higher education system that they were not privileged to participate in, have made all the difference in my life.
Changing My Destiny: Frank E. Padilla, Assistant Professor - Education
Frank Padilla
Cesar Chavez and his influence were not yet strong in my area of Sanger. How could I possibly do this for a living, I wondered. Working conditions were terrible.
Finding the Keys: Kenneth G. Shipley,
Associate Provost - Academic Affairs
Kenneth Shipley
My first mentor was the produce department manager at the grocery store where I worked. Again and again, he would say, “Someday you’re going to be much older. Do you want to be wrapping lettuce or stocking carrots at 40, 50, or 60 years old?”
Mentors and Motivation: They Can Come From Anywhere: Albert Valencia, Associate Professor and Director - Mentoring Institute
Albert Valencia
. . . in the barrio, the last ones hired were the first ones fired. I saw this fact of life play itself out every time one of my relatives was laid off. There seemed no way out.
Don’t Follow Us, Get an Education: Bernie Vinovrski, Associate Vice President - Enrollment Services
Bernie Vinovrski
At age seven or eight, I went with my dad and watched the men play cards and shoot darts. All of them told me, “Don’t follow our career. Get an education.”
Education is a Privilege: Mui Vuong, Counselor - Educational Opportunity Program
Mui Vuong
The courage and determination it took for them to leave their native country for a place unknown to them with the hope that they and their children could live a better life inspires me.
Providence Lives In Fresno: James E. Walton, Department Chair and Professor - English
James E. Walton
. . I graduated from high school at age 16 with no job prospects, no plan for further education and my allotted time to live at home had expired. The U.S. military offered the only hope, so I signed up for the Navy.
Help Along the Way: John D. Welty, President
John D. Welty
. . . the idea of going to college was frightening.  It was far away from where I lived and from my family’s experience and I was uncertain about my ability to succeed.

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