Four First-Generation College Success Stories

November 8, 2018

By Staff

This fall, 49 percent of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s student body are first-generation college students, and more than half of the University’s faculty and staff surveyed also identify themselves as first-gen grads.

With The Center for First-generation Student Success designating Nov. 8 — the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965 — a day for First-Generation College Celebration, here are four Colorado success stories to inspire a new class to achieve their education goals.

Gabriela Rodriguez

MSU Denver, 2017

Gabriela Rodriguez, Advocacy & Community Engagement Associate for KIPP Colorado Schools. Photo by Jessica Taves.

“My parents didn’t want me to go to college because they were afraid, because we’re undocumented immigrants. MSU Denver is so unique, because professors already understand that a lot of our students are nontraditional. Once you get to college, there’s a treasure chest of resources waiting for you.”

Read her story: Unabashedly Undocumented


Jesús Quintana Martínez

MSU Denver, 2017

Jesus Quintana Martinez, community outreach coordinator for the City of Thornton. Photo by Alyson McClaran.
Jesus Quintana Martinez, community outreach coordinator for the City of Thornton. Photo by Alyson McClaran.

“My father only went to third grade in Mexico. My mother only went to fourth grade. To me, being a first-generation graduate meant breaking barriers. The moment I came to college was a very proud moment, but at the same time very scary because I didn’t know how everything worked. But there’s always someone willing to help, someone who will talk to you about college and tell you that you can do it.”

Read his story: From Migrant Work to Master’s Degree


Roberto Nava

Associate Dean of the School of Education, MSU Denver 

Roberto Nava, associate dean of the School of Education at MSU Denver. Photo by Rachel Truax.
Roberto Nava, associate dean of the School of Education at MSU Denver. Photo by Rachel Truax.

“I grew up in poverty and was first in my family to graduate from college. I feel like my story is similar to many of the students we serve at MSU Denver. Two of my degrees are from a state university, so I can relate to many of the experiences that all our students face.”

Read his story: Hello, My Name is Roberto Nava


Kenn Bisio

Photojournalism Professor, MSU Denver

Kenn Bisio, professor of journalism and technical communications at MSU Denver. Photo by Jessica Taves.
Kenn Bisio, professor of journalism and technical communications at MSU Denver. Photo by Jessica Taves.

“In 2015, I was awarded ‘Journalism Educator of the Year’ by the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2016, I was awarded ‘Distinguished Professor of the Year’ by former MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan. Those awards, and other awards I’ve received from the National Press Photographers Association, I sent to past teachers who told me, ‘Yes you can.’”

Read his story: The Second-Wildest Journalism Teacher in the West

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