By: Teresa Niner, senior manager, Benefits & Wellness, Talent Strategy

pciture of TeresaAs students across the nation head back to the classroom, we are celebrating First-Generation students. A First- Generation College Student is defined as a student whose parents didn’t attend college; or is the first person in their immediate family to attend college; or neither parent has at least one year of college. This month, we are sharing stories from ACT colleagues who are First-Generation College Students.

What was your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?

For me, it was never a question…just something I knew I was supposed to do. I watched my mom struggle as a single mom following the death of my father and just knew I wanted to have more opportunities. My family expected it of me so I expected it of myself.

Who inspired or supported you in your college-going journey?

My mom, brother, and grandmother were big supporters of me. I was also blessed with some great roommates that helped me through the tough times.

What was the biggest challenge you faced as a first-generation college student?

Interestingly, the same as many today…financing my college experience. I ended up working full-time most of my college years but still ended up with some significant debt.

What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?

Surround yourself with people who will build you up and challenge you when needed. Stay focused on your goals knowing there are often detours along any path…be ok with that. Forgive yourself, as needed, and be your own biggest supporter.

What was your largest worry during that time?

How to balance work, school, and what to “do” when I had a crisis of major during my sophomore year.

Teresa Niner is senior manager, Benefits & Wellness, where she supports the strategy, administration, and compliance of ACT’s team member benefit and wellness programs. She ensures programs offered by ACT provide team members with a holistic and competitive suite of options designed to provide support across the 6 pillars of well-being. She has her undergraduate degree in Business Management with a Human Resources emphasis from the University of Northern Iowa.