Kayesee Schermerhorn

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First-generation students, who don't have a family history of higher education, are a group that make UW Tacoma a very special place. Read their stories as they tell, in their own words, about the challenges they overcame on their path to success.

Kayesee Schermerhorn, UW Tacoma law and policy senior and first-generation studentMy name is Kayesee Schermerhorn. I am a senior studying law and policy with an economics minor, and I am proud to be a first- generation college student.

By being a first-generation college student, I am able to break the cycle of poverty that has been persistent in my family for generations. It was always my mom’s dream to see me go to college because she was never able to attend. When she was my age, she was accepted into college but did not have the financial means to pay for it.

Without a degree, my mom was often passed over for higher paying jobs or promotions. This led her always to encourage my sister and me to attend college. My entire family has sacrificed a lot for me to get here and I use this to motivate me. When I walk across the stage at graduation I am not only walking for myself, I am walking for my mom. Without the support I received from my mom, my sister, and my close friends, none of this would have been possible.

One characteristic of UW Tacoma that I love is how many first-generation college students there are here. At my high school, it was rare that I would encounter someone who did not have at least one parent who attended college. At UW Tacoma, being a first- generation college student is normalized and I do not face the same stigma that I did in high school.

My advice to other first-generation college students is to be proud of your accomplishment. Being the first in your family to attend college isn’t something to hide; rather, it is something to celebrate. You are not alone and there are many other students here in your situation. You may be the first in your family to attend college, but because of your hard work, you will not be the last. 

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Written: 
May 10, 2017