First-Gen Student Charts New Path

Suri Zebadua

As a first-generation Hispanic student, Suri Zebadua always wanted to further her education. Being the first one in her family to go to college, she never felt pressured to attend, but wanted to do it for her own future aspirations. 

As she started to explore her options for college, GateWay was not at the top of the list. “Like all my friends, I wanted to go to one of the state universities. I always knew that I wanted to further my education, but doing so at ASU was going to come at a hefty price,” Zebadua said. 

It was during a campus tour of GateWay Community College that her mind slowly started to change. As she began to learn more about the programs and see the facilities, she realized that it may just offer exactly what she was looking for. 

“The staff at GateWay made me feel as if we were longtime friends in a span of 30 minutes,” said Zebadua. “They were able to provide me with valuable information about their programs. That sort of sealed the deal!”

But even though she would be saving a lot of money by attending GateWay, she still had to figure out how to pay for college. So, she joined the EXCEL program, a student success program offered by GateWay to help students navigate their college experience. 

“My family wanted to help, but had no idea how to navigate FAFSA or how to help choose a major. The EXCEL staff continue to help me every day. Without their help and patience, I would not be as knowledgeable and confident as I am,” Zebadua said.

Zebadua is currently pursuing an Associate in Arts degree and is interested in pursuing a possible career in social work where she will use her bilingual skills to help others. 

For her first-generation peers, she had these words of wisdom to share, “I felt helpless when I had to fill paperwork or answer questions. It’s ok to ask for help whenever it’s needed. I have done things that I did not think I would ever do, such as take online classes, meet new people, and be a part of the GateWay community.”

To learn more about the EXCEL program at GateWay Community College, please visit: https://www.gatewaycc.edu/excel

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