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Carla JuarezCarla Juarez ’17

Jarrell, TX

Carla Juarez grew up in a tiny Texas town, and although neither one of her parents attended college, she was a star student with the second highest GPA in her high school.

“My parents didn’t finish high school, they didn’t even finish elementary school,” said Juarez, a class of 2018 accounting major. “They had no idea how to help me in high school, so I did it on my own. I applied to college on my own. I looked for scholarships on my own. I know they couldn’t help me as much, but they were as supportive as they could be and were there for me.”

With more than 11,000 first-gen undergraduates at UTSA, Carla isn’t alone. She joined and became vice-president of First to Go and Graduate (F2G&G), a student organization comprised of over 60 members.

Recently the student organization, along with several campus offices, hosted First-Gen Fest to raise awareness about the experience of students who are the first in their families to complete a four-year degree. Some 100 students, faculty and staff showed up to the event, displaying their “I am First-Gen” t-shirts, buttons and signs. Participants included interim President of UTSA, Pedro Reyes, who is also a first-generation student.

In between classes, working with F2G&G and helping with the Student Government Association, Carla tries to visit home at least once a month.¬†With college tuition and expenses on the rise, Carla also works part-time on campus and relies heavily on scholarship support. So far she’s managed to make her way through college debt-free thanks in part to donor support.

“First-gen students are very determined,” said Juarez, who plans to later intern at PricewaterhouseCoopers. “We don’t take our education for granted and are grateful to have the opportunities that our parents didn’t have.”

Story by Yvonne Zamora Byrd on UTSA Today