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December 18, 2019

First-person perspectives from first-generation college students: Talia Pruiett, of SVSU

Pruiett, Talia with laptop on their lapThe following is a part of a series of first-person narratives from SVSU students who are part of the first generation of their families to attend college. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find links to additional student stories.

The following is a first-person perspective from SVSU student Talia Pruiett:

For me, college was always the goal. I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do– I just knew I needed to go to college. I wasn’t exposed to many careers and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, but my high school really pushed going to college and I always felt that was the right thing for me. My parents were supportive as well, but neither of them had gone to college and they didn’t know much about the admissions process. I worked hard and dual-enrolled to earn college credit while still in high school, and my financial situation was the biggest factor when deciding where I wanted to continue my education.

I knew that I was going to be paying for college on my own, so it was deciding what was best for me and what was financially the best. Saginaw Valley State University had the most opportunities. I completed my FAFSA, and I would highly encourage every single person to do that. I was determined and applied for a lot of scholarships. I was awarded two from SVSU, as well as an opportunity grant, which meant that I didn’t have to take out any loans for my first year of school. I also work on campus as an orientation leader, tour guide, and in the counseling center, which helps offset costs as well.

When I arrived at SVSU, it was just really surreal. You go to school for 12 years and college is the light at the end of the tunnel. I was excited to come here. I wanted to get involved and make the best of it.  I was a little nervous but very driven and determined. I wanted to learn more about the world around me. I was excited to get a new start and I felt like SVSU was the best place to do that.

Coming from a small high school, I was nervous about making friends, and I think all the events and clubs helped me find my best friends and break out of my shell. You don’t realize how much you learn about yourself until you get involved in things. I joined the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, an intramural basketball team, volunteered with the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and Cardinal Volunteers, and will be going on a study abroad trip to Mexico soon as part of my Spanish minor.

I also joined Alternative Breaks, an SVSU program that sends students to volunteer for nonprofits across the country during the university’s holiday breaks. I traveled to South Carolina and worked with youth in the juvenile justice system, and I realized I had a passion for helping others. That really solidified it for me. When I got back, I talked to the Career Services Office and my department chair, then switched my major to social work.

As a freshman, I was part of a first-year transition program as SVSU, and my coordinator was very supportive and helpful. She was always approachable when I had questions about my major and class schedule, or if I needed advice. She always reassured me that everything was going to be ok and pointed me in the right direction. She’s helped guide me in a lot of ways and I’m so appreciative of that.

Now, to share my experiences, I work in the King Chavez Parks (KCP) grant program to coach and mentor other first-generation students. I absolutely love working with them and learning from them. I build relationships, get insight on what they need with resources, make sure they’re doing ok in their classes and getting acclimated, guide them with study habits, and help set the foundation for them to be successful students.  

If anyone’s having troubling transitioning to college, I would encourage them to reach out because there are resources and people who are there to help. It may be challenging, but if you do what you’re supposed to do and do it right, then good things will happen.

The following are links to additional first-person perspectives from first-generation college students:

Paloma Barba

Lindsey Mead

Jessalyn Gaskin

Mitch Hughes