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 is your motivation for going to college and earning a degree?
Throughout my life there has been a lot of adversity faced not only myself but also my family. My mom taught me from a very early age that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to if you work hard. Working hard means to not only work hard in school, but to also work hard at your job and as a person. Working hard means that even though you are exhausted at the end of the day from working at your job and going to school, you find the mentality to finish the homework to ensure that your academics never suffer. It means that even though school and work may be taking a huge toll on your energy, you never lose sight of the goal. You must continue being a good person and helping those around you simply because you can.
My mom is my inspiration and motivation. She raised my two sisters and me on her own, working days and nights to make sure that we were never without necessities. My mother had the courage to divorce the man who is my father and face the fear that traps most women in dangerous relationships. She endured the struggle so that we would never tolerate to be treated like anything other than what we deserve. My mom is my motivation because she has worked so hard for me to be the person I am today, and I never want to stop being the best I can be for her. I hope to keep working and pushing through anything life throws my way so that one day she will never have to work again.
What is the biggest challenge you faced as a first-generation student?
I grew up in a very small and extremely conservative part of Iowa. Although my family was facing many challenges such as legal status, financial instability, and emotional healing, the biggest challenge was to face the prejudice and blatant racism that I encountered. Just because the color of my skin was a little darker than everyone else, I was constantly questioned about my belonging. Being told that I was “really smart for a Mexican” or the time I walked into class and someone asked me if I was sure I was in the right class. These things hurt very much. When you are a young girl who is already going through so much at home and working hours that no one else works in addition to the pressure of excelling in school, comments like that feel incredibly heavy. They bring you down a little, whether you like it or not. However, I can now proudly say that those challenges turned into incredible motivators because I wanted more than anything to prove these people wrong. I will continue to push myself to be someone in this world who enacts change and affects others’ lives in a positive way.
What advice would you give to a first-generation college student today?
My advice to other first-generation students is to never give up. I know it can be hard to look around and not see other people who look like you, but you can be that change. You can be the person who little eyes admire and hope to be like one day. Our parents have overcome too much for us to waste the opportunities that we are presented; do not waste it. Take it and run with it.
Perla Muro is a first-year college student at Kirkwood Community College currently majoring in international relations. She was born and raised in Sioux Center, Iowa and lives with her mom, two sisters, and one brother.