by Natalie Veissalov

Joey Torres, political science

Joey Torres’ parents are both from Mexico, and the University of La Verne junior says he never had a formal education to serve as a foundation for a higher degree. This did not stop him, though, from pursuing his higher education goals. He was inspired to go to college by his older sister, an elementary teacher in San Bernardino County who also graduated from the University of La Verne. He says sister Angela Torres was always academically dedicated. “She paved the way for me. It was more of a question of where to go to college rather than whether we were going to college. I have a passion for academics; it’s the only way to better yourself in this world. There was a time in my life where I thought I knew it all,” Joey reflects. “The college experience humbled me.”

Before attending La Verne, Joey started at Franklin and Marshall College, ranked nationally in the top 20 by U.S. News and World Report. However, he says he missed California, so he transferred to La Verne, based on its many positive offerings.

Torres says going to college is something expected in his generation and plans to attend law school. He is narrowing his choices to five, all of which are in California. “When I get out of law school, I will feel really successful, especially when I pass the bar.” He says he and his sister are glad to have broken the cycle in their family by attending college. “We started a new family trend.”

For future first generation college students hesitant to attend college, Joey offers advice. “If it’s a money issue, get over it. You can get loans, grants and so forth.” He said people think in the short term when they should be thinking in the long term, noting that a person’s chances of gaining a better paying job are higher. Joey is positive about his future. “My plan is to succeed, not to fail.”

Xenia Martinez, broadcast journalism

As a first generation student, Xenia Martinez, a ULV broadcast journalism junior, thought college was going to be much more difficult. However, with the support of her parents and professors, she was able to triumph over the obstacles of being a first generation student.

“The support at La Verne is strong,” Xenia explains. “Teachers are very helpful here; even the general education teachers too.”

To go to college was never a question in the Martinez household. Xenia was raised to set her mind on college matriculation. “It was a given to go to college,” Xenia says. “I felt if I didn’t go to college, I would be disappointing my dad and my mom. For them, my going to college was really exciting because they didn’t get to go to a university.” She says she serves as a role model for her younger brother. For future high school students, she offers advice: “They should go to college. I think college is a great experience, especially at La Verne.”

Now, as she approaches her senior year, Xenia is planning for her career. She recently completed an internship at Univision, the most watched Spanish television network in America. “It’s kind of scary that I’m going to be in the real world, but I’m excited,” Xenia reveals. “I hope I can actually do what I have been studying these past three years.”

Nataly Escobar, international business

Now a senior business major at La Verne, Nataly Escobar faced challenges as a first generation student. First, it was financially difficult for her to attend college. Although Nataly received some grants and scholarships, she still had to take out loans. Second, college was academically challenging. “I had to do all the reading I didn’t do in high school,” Nataly admits. “Even though I am a senior, college is still scary because I still don’t know what to expect from a professor.” Also, The paper work and FAFSA applications were challenging.

Nevertheless, in Nataly’s family, college was always discussed. “Education was always a good thing in my family because it takes you places. My parents always wanted their children to do better than they did. My parents are proud that I took the initiative to go to college.” She hopes earning a higher education degree will enable her to get a better paying job, to live a better life and to enable her to start paying off her loans.

Nataly plans to seek a future master’s degree and to become “a problem solver in the business industry.” She is proud of herself for embarking on a higher education adventure and thereby breaking the cycle in her family.

Also see the companion story, “From C’s to A’s.”