More than a decade ago, as part of ACT’s 50th anniversary celebration, ACT established the ACT Scholars Program, as part of a pair of endowments to nurture the academic talent of graduate and community college students at the University of Iowa and Kirkwood Community College. These two institutions share ACT’s passion for helping all students achieve their ambitions in college and their careers. ACT emphasized scholarships for students from populations for which the cost of higher education could have presented a significant barrier to college access and accomplishments.
We will feature ACT Scholar blogs regularly, to hear their stories and learn about their college-going journeys. Learn more about the ACT Scholar program.
What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?
My main motivation for going to college and pursuing a degree is knowing that doing so can give me the best opportunity to help the world. After working in the banking industry for a few years after graduating high school, I soon realized that I wanted to make an impact on this world in a positive way. At the same time, my love for the environment grew, helping me realize that I wanted to help protect and maintain it. My passion for the environment and desire to help make a positive impact on the world is what led me to go back to school and pursue my degree.
What are you currently studying? What degree will you earn?
I am currently a sophomore at Kirkwood pursuing my Associate of Science degree. Once I complete that I plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in environmental or civil engineering at a four-year college or university. I hope to one day earn up to a doctorate degree and be able to study environmental sciences.
Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?
I currently financially support myself, but a big help and motivation along the way has been my best friend and partner, Jay, as well as this ACT endowed scholarship. Both Jay and the scholarship have given me hope that my goals are possible.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a first-generation college student?
The biggest challenge I faced as a first-generation college student was learning to navigate the college academic system. Growing up, we never discussed the possibility of going to college due to the fear of the financial costs. When I decided to go back, I asked as many questions as I could and with the help of a few great people along the way, I was able to learn and adapt to the system.
What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?
Some advice I would like to give to other first-generation students is to get involved, try your best to manage your time well, and most importantly, ask as many questions as you need answers to. Don’t hold back on any questions you have, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the many great services that were put in place to help people like you and me. Being in college can be extremely intimidating as a first-generation student, but it doesn’t have to be. There is plenty of help, and contrary to what we might think, the college professors and staff want to help and see us succeed. I would also advise all first-generation students to be more kind and patient with yourselves. Be proud of every one of your accomplishments and remember that you deserve to be here. You belong here!
What goals have you set for yourself?
A goal I have set for myself is to become more involved in my community. I plan to volunteer at the Global Food Project, a sustainable food-growing project developed by IC Compassion to feed the community. I want to get to know my community better and help in any way I can.
Lourdes Loera is a first-generation student and immigrant from Mexico. She is currently working toward her associate degree at Kirkwood Community College with the goal of transferring to a four-year university.