Monday, March 10, 2014

The First Generation- Michael Sprinkle

Going to college in our family was never really a choice. Even though my mom would tell you it
was, the subliminal or the not so subtle message was that we would go to college, get a great job,
make some money, and live a better life. For me that was just the way of life.
You see, I am from a family where my sister was the first one to go to college. I remember when
she went and that it was a big deal for our family. She was a trailblazer for us and because she
went into the medical field, she became the resident ailment expert for our entire family.
When I went to college, I went with the same pomp and circumstance as the others before me.
However, I was the just the second to graduate from college, and I was the first to attend graduate
school. I didn’t really realize the importance of being the first until graduate school. That was
when I learned about this term “first generation.”

I had no idea what a first generation college student was, and I examined that culture during
graduate school. It was my program chair at Indiana State who pushed us to look at those aspects
of our lives. I thank him for that because I probably would not have taken an interest had it not
been for him.

I wish I had known more about being a first ­generation college student when I went to Purdue. I
might not have had some of the issues I faced or I might have sought help more often. However,
one thing I did do was to surround myself with good people. They were people who took me under
their wing and helped mentor me.
So I pay it forward. I have mentored young adults both in college and high school. Right now, my
high school kids are selecting colleges. It is bittersweet. I still remember getting the acceptance
letter and my mom taping it to the front door of our family business so I would see it when I came
to the grain elevator that day.

The moral for all of you is that regardless if you were a first ­generation college student, you never
know the access that a young adult has had to college or their life story. As higher education
professionals we need to be able to continue to mentor, ask more questions, and find our students’
stories. You just never know the impact you will make on their life!