First generation college student: carrying the hopes and dreams of my family

By Karena McDanel
September 28, 2018

St. Patrick's College, Maynooth. Where I hope to study.
St. Patrick's College, Maynooth. Where I hope to study.
Me and my family on our way to Cabrini. Photo by Karena McDanel

I am the first person in my family to ever attend college. Being the only one in college brings joy to me and my family. I was raised by my father my whole life. When my father was a young boy, college wasn’t in the picture or even talked about growing up.

My dad worked throughout his whole life. He became a parent at a young age, so he never had time on his hands to go to college. His parents never stressed college to him, so he never thought it was a big deal until now. My dad’s main priorities back then were to take care of us and make sure that we were happy and had a roof over our heads.

My dad has always supported me through everything, especially school. He wanted me to do very well, and to always get good grades. My dad has always wanted me to strive and achieve great things in life. I hope one day I become as successful as my father. He worked so hard to make us happy, I feel like he deserves to be happy as well. My dad would always say, “do whatever makes you happy.”

When my senior year in high school finally came around, I knew, for a fact, that I wanted to go to college. When I told my dad that I wanted to go, he was excited and very nervous at the same time. He has never been to college, so he didn’t know what to expect, and neither did I.

My dad was very new to the whole college process, so it was pretty difficult doing most of it on my own. I made sure

Me and my family my freshmen year in Xavier Hall. Photo by Karena McDanel

to visit my guidance counselor almost everyday to help me apply to schools. I decided to apply to four of my favorite schools including Temple, West Chester, Cabrini University and Kutztown. When I started to get accepted into these schools, I started to have doubts about how I was going to pay for school and how it was all going to work out. Thankfully, my dad was by my side through it all.

“Karena, I’m making sure you are going to college,” he said.

Today, I am a sophomore at Cabrini University. I’m majoring in communications and hope to study abroad in Ireland at Maynooth University. Being in college means the world to me. I’m furthering my education and hope to graduate with a degree in communication. My family has been so supportive of me. They say that their proud of me, and it is the best feeling in the world. It motivates me everyday to do well in school. My future plan, when I graduate from Cabrini, is to look for a job right away, pay off my loans and save up for a house. I hope to find a great job that pays wells, and that I enjoy. I hope that all this schooling pays off at the end.


Karena McDanel

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