Stephon Harris

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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.

Stephon Harris, UW Tacoma associate director and first-generation graduate.As a senior in high school, to me the idea of college sounded good because everyone else talked about it. College sports were all I watched when it came to athletics. I knew that I should go but did not understand why. I had questions—the first was always, “How do I pay for it?”

Adjusting to college is hard. Unfortunately—and fortunately—I had to navigate the college environment as I went. Feeling that you have to "fake like you belong" is an empty feeling. I attended two community colleges and took a two-year break before I figured out why the environment of a college campus was beneficial for me. Transferring to a university out of state posed a different set of challenges but I was ready to handle them because I knew I wanted to be there to create more value for my family and myself.

When you don’t have a blueprint available, navigating college life becomes twice as discouraging. However, I found that all I needed was one person to understand what I was going through. It helps to know that I was not alone, and am still not alone, in my pursuit.

My encouragement would be to find that person or people you can relate to and form a network of support. It is amazing how far you can go and the individuals you can meet along the way!

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March 24, 2017