First-gen success

First-generation Tigers share the challenges that shape how they navigate college.

By Theo Schwinke

National First-Generation Celebration Week is Nov. 7-11 and we are celebrating our first-generation students at Mizzou. First-Generation at Mizzou is a series of events recognizing the achievements and contributions of students who are the first generation in their families to attend college.

Many academic units and campus spaces are hosting events, which are posted on the Mizzou Events Calendar and on MU Engage (look for events tagged #FIRSTGEN).

Nearly 1 in 5 first-year students at Mizzou this fall are first-generation Tigers. Here are just a few of them.

Cydney Perkins

Cydney Perkins is a junior from St. Louis. She’s majoring in political science and journalism and minoring in Black studies. She said there was never any question of her going to college. “It was always something that I had to do to make it in the way no one else before me had,” she said. “But now I use college as a motivation to give my mother the life she never had the luxury of dreaming.”

Debora Paez Perez

Débora Paez Perez is a senior from Kansas City. She’s majoring in nursing with a psychology minor. “As an immigrant first-gen student, attending college not only meant taking steps towards upward mobility but a chance at opportunities like representing the Latinx community in professional settings, advocating for minority individuals in the health care field, and in plenty of other spaces where our presence has been scarce,” she said.

Cameron Gilmore

Cam Gilmore is a junior from St. Joseph. He’s majoring in mathematics and statistics with an emphasis in actuarial science. “It was important for me to go to college because I want to prove that it is possible to as a first-generation student and make my family proud,” he said. “I’m traversing a world of new opportunities my parents never had.”

Elaina Frede

Elaina Frede is a #MizzouMade alumna (BA ’04, MPA ’08) from Mexico. “It was important for me to go to college because while growing up my parents instilled in me that I had the determination, ability and most importantly the ownership to create my life trajectory,” she said. “I was in control of my story. Education was going to help catapult that direction and give me the skills to build my career and my life. I was blessed with parents who were hard working and frugal who developed my bases for success however I defined it.”

Find more success stories at the First-Generation at Mizzou website.