Paradise Valley Community College prides itself on inclusivity and diversity amongst our students and helping to make higher education more accessible to all who seek it. Our first-generation college students are a big part of our amazing community, and it’s not by chance that they find their way to PVCC. The school places significant emphasis on community outreach, heightening awareness of programs and scholarships available to first-generation students, which for many, college wasn’t even on their radar; never an option. PVCC is helping to change that and facilitate them in achieving their dreams.
November 9th honors first-generation students as National Awareness Day. The inaugural first-generation college celebration was initially launched in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-Generation Student Success. PVCC’s Fall 2020 enrollment included 45.8% first-generation students, and dozens of high school students currently participating in PVCC’s Early College program. It is this program specifically that reached first-generation student Cynthia Rojas-Rangel, and changed the course of her life.
Rojas-Rangel, a sophomore studying to become a veterinarian, is the oldest sibling in her family. Her parents never graduated high school. “I was clueless on where to go after I graduated… I did not have anyone who I was able to look up to and ask,” she explained. It was a lunchtime event at her high school featuring PVCC and its Early College program that Rojas-Rangel said “changed my life.”
Here is where Rojas-Rangel met Ana Chandler, the Achieving a College Education (ACE) program coordinator, who went above and beyond introducing high school students to scholarship opportunities at PVCC. “(Ana) made PVCC feel like home. For many of my peers and I, college was never in the picture… She changed that. She saw the potential in each and every one of us and supported us in our lowest and highest points.”
Another example of first-gen excellence is Aurora Thompson, who started her first year at PVCC this fall and aspires to be a labor and delivery nurse. Thompson earned the Puma Scholarship, which awards students full tuition for two semesters. So long as they maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher, the student is awarded the scholarship for another two semesters, 12 credits per semester.
“I wanted to become a nurse for all my life, but it was solidified when my best friend was in the hospital with sepsis and I saw how friendly and helpful the nurses were,” Thompson said. PVCC is helping her achieve her goal of paying little to nothing for her education through scholarships.
Students interested in learning more about PVCC’s Early College program or scholarships, please visit https://www.paradisevalley.edu/students/financial-aid/scholarships or https://www.paradisevalley.edu/students/early-college-opportunities.