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October 30, 2019

First-generation college student determined to continue her education at SVSU

Talia Pruiett had the grades, the dream, and the drive to attend college, but she wasn’t sure she would make it. With hard work, perseverance, and endless support she made her goal a reality.

A first-generation college student at Saginaw Valley State University, her parents were encouraging of this dream but had little experience navigating the college admission and selection process.

Pruiett had little prior exposure to different types of careers and was unsure of what she wanted to study, but her high school pushed going to college and she was determined that it was the was the right path for her. While much of her future was uncertain, going to college was one thing she knew she needed to strive for.

“I had no idea where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do,” the Bay City native said. “I just knew I needed to go to college.”  

Now, as a second-year student at SVSU, Pruiett is sure she made the right choice and is proud of what she’s achieved.

Throughout high school, Pruiett pushed her limits and was a disciplined student, always trying to put herself in the best position for success. She challenged herself by dual-enrolling to earn college credit while still in high school to prepare herself for the next step in her education, knowing how many opportunities this would provide to her.

Since Pruiett knew she would be paying for her own college education, her financial situation was the biggest obstacle she faced when deciding where she wanted to pursue her degree. She was determined to find ways to reduce costs and avoid debt. She wanted to determine which schools were most affordable, while also providing her with the best opportunities.

She found this combination at SVSU.

“It was deciding what was best for me and what was financially the best,” Pruiett said. “SVSU had the most opportunities.”

As part of her commitment to financial success, Pruiett diligently completed her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). It was an exercise critical to her ability to afford college, she said.

“I would highly encourage every single person to do that,” Pruiett said of filling out the FAFSA.

Pruiett also applied for a multitude of scholarships and was awarded two from SVSU, as well as an opportunity grant. Her hard work and dedication to completing these applications paid off and kept her from having to take out any loans during her first year of school. To help offset costs even more, Pruiett continued to push herself and gain on-campus employment. While balancing her coursework and a demanding schedule, she also works as an orientation leader, a tour guide, and in the counseling center. 

A college degree was the ultimate end goal for Pruiett, and when she arrived on campus, she felt that dream becoming a reality.

“It was really just surreal,” Pruiett said of coming to SVSU. “You go to school for 12 years and college is the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Pruiett was excited to start college and begin the next chapter of her life, but she had her reservations as well not knowing what to expect. She soon encountered many friendly and devoted individuals who welcomed her and provided her with the support she needed to adjust to such a big transition. This empowered her to take on more challenges and opportunities.

Pruiett was part of a first-year transition program at SVSU, and her supportive coordinator, Sarah Ward, was dedicated to making sure she had all the resources she needed to succeed. Ward was always approachable and there to help whenever Pruiett had questions about her class schedule and major, or needed advice on acclimating to college. She was grateful to have someone that genuinely cared about her success.

“She always reassured me that everything was going to be okay and pointed me in the right direction,” Pruiett said. “She’s helped guide me in a lot of ways and I’m so appreciative of that.”

Knowing that she had a support system already in place at SVSU before she had even started her classes made Pruiett feel more confident as she began college.

“I was a little nervous but very driven and determined,” Pruiett said. “I was excited to come here. I wanted to get involved and make the best of it.”

She translated her nervousness to excitement and was dedicated to immersing herself in all that a college experience has to offer. Coming from a small high school, Pruiett was concerned about making new friends and being overwhelmed by her new environment. However, getting involved on campus made her feel welcomed and at home. Having a community helped her open up to her new surroundings.

“I love being involved. I think all the events and clubs helped me find my best friends and break out of my shell,” Pruiett said. “You don’t realize how much you learn about yourself until you get involved in things.”

A vibrant campus life and the programs she committed herself to soon become Pruiett’s favorite parts of being at SVSU. She was inducted into the National Society of Collegiate Scholars, an honors organization that promotes leadership and service. She also dedicates her time to volunteering for the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs and Cardinal Volunteers, has joined a competitive intramural basketball team, and will be participating in a study abroad trip to Mexico as part of her Spanish minor. Pruiett also devoted herself to alternative breaks, an SVSU program that sends students to volunteer for nonprofits across the country during the university’s holiday breaks.

Her involvement in the latter program helped her find her career path. Pruiett traveled to South Carolina to work with youth in the juvenile justice system. She returned to SVSU with an enthusiasm for social work and made it her major.

“I realized I had a passion for helping others,” Pruiett said of her experience on the trip. “That really solidified it for me.”

Pruiett is now taking all that she’s learned in college so far and offering guidance to empower other students like herself. She serves as a dedicated mentor in the King Chavez Parks (KCP) grant program, which helps first-generation college students adjust during their freshman year.

She is determined to use her own experiences to help the students she coaches successfully acclimate to college, develop study habits, learn about all the resources available to them, and ensure they are keeping up with their classwork.

“I absolutely love working with them and learning from them,” Pruiett said.

Pruiett knows that going to college can be very intimidating, especially for individuals who are the first in their family to pursue a four-year degree. She wants to encourage others that, even though they may face challenges, they are not alone. With hard work and perseverance there are support systems in place to help them excel and achieve their goals.

“There are resources and people who are there to help,” Pruiett said. “If you do what you’re supposed to do and do it right, then good things will happen.”