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 what are you currently studying?
In my life, the work that so many great men and women have accomplished motivates me in my everyday life. I was raised in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and I moved here five years ago. I am currently an industrial maintenance student. I am going to earn an electromechanic diploma and associate degree. In my hometown, it’s not a piece of cake to get a job after you finish a degree. Most people are struggling with the situation because there is unemployment. But the United States’ political strategies motivated me again to go back to school. They fight against the discrimination and hunger by putting equality of opportunity as a priority. In general, many people who go to school earn a wonderful job and they are prioritized in society.
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 English as a second language and starting to communicate with others in English. Once this challenge was met, the gifts of my experience exploded and I met so many new and wonderful people and friends who support my dreams and goals in my reality.
Who supported you in your college-going journey and what advice would you give to a first-generation college student?
I am grateful to my parents as they have supported me financially and morally from the beginning until now. I am also grateful to the ACT endowed scholarship, as they are taking care of my education by paying the tuition. As a first-generation college student I encourage you to work hard by taking your education seriously and placing it as your first priority. We never know what the future will present and there are many ways to be successful in your life. Reach out and make friends, find the support you need, and don’t be afraid of the unknown possibilities for your life. Most of all, I want to encourage others to work for their dearest dreams and slowly those dreams will become your life’s reality.
What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?
There are several things that influence someone to take a goal, a dream, or anything more seriously and willingly. People may choose to believe or not, but life has many realities. Terrible life situations are some of the best motivations in human life, because it changes you, and will help you grow into a stronger human being. This is very critical for many reasons, you will look at life as a journey of obstacles and joy, ups and downs, and wins and losses.
Samuel Nongo is currently a student at Kirkwood Community College’s Iowa City campus. He is pursuing his degree in industrial maintenance technology. He is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.