First-generation student Corey Austin '13 with Maria Dintino, associate director of Aspire
I love asking students how they ended up at Keene State College. Everyone's story is unique. Yet, I believe the most intriguing ones are those told by first-generation college students.
Corey Austin '13 is a first-generation student who grew up in Claremont, New Hampshire, with his mother, two sisters, and brother. Although his mother didn't go to college, she impressed upon Corey the value of education. "Education's going to support you; your friends won't," she'd remind him. "She was there to give me the mindset that I needed to succeed," Corey says. "I am truly grateful for her."
Corey attended elementary, middle, and the first part of high school in Claremont. He didn't really apply himself, even though he loved to read and learn. "Teachers always told me I had potential. I just didn't have the patience in classes, partnered with not having the strongest work ethic," Corey admits.
Halfway through high school, at the age of 16, Corey decided to move in with his father in Charlestown, New Hampshire, as a way of developing more of a relationship with him and his other siblings. Moving from Stevens High School to Fall Mountain Regional provided Corey with a "change of scenery." While meeting with the school counselor, there was talk about his future and mention of Upward Bound, a Trio program that prepares students for success in high school and enrollment in college.
So Corey, at the urging of his school counselor, attended an Upward Bound informational session, applied, and was accepted. He spent the next summer on the Keene State College campus, participating in the Upward Bound (UB) program. "UB at Keene State was my first impression of college and it set deep," recalls Corey.
Corey had never had structure imposed on him like he did in Upward Bound and this helped him see what he was capable of accomplishing. He learned how to be task oriented, and he rather liked the fact that "UB gave me a routine for every day, from when I woke up to when I went to sleep."
Returning to Fall Mountain for his senior year of high school, Corey continued to work with Upward Bound, meeting with his UB counselor, Laura Mielke. Corey says, "My academic year counselor, Laura, helped me most. We met once a week, and during that time we talked about a lot of things. A majority of it was self-reflection, which is what I needed…. Our meetings helped me to discover who I was and what I wanted out of life, and I am very thankful for that."
When asked why he picked KSC, Corey says, "I chose Keene State College because it was close to home and I had already been on the campus for Upward Bound…so, I decided to go with what I knew."
Because of his high school transcript, Corey was not initially admitted, so he set out to prove to Keene State that he really wanted to be here. Corey enrolled in the Keene State College Summer Link Program, an introductory program for incoming students, where he "learned a lot about the academic and social atmosphere…and how to balance these."
He also discovered "the college resources on campus and how to be an actively involved student…and that the professors are willing to help those students who seek help in the appropriate manner." Corey excelled in Link and attended River Valley Community College during the fall of 2009, matriculating at Keene State in January 2010.
According to Corey, "The combination of UB and Link helped me to establish who I am as a person, set goals for myself, combine my interests and goals to make them more tangible, apply myself to my academics, and be open minded to others along the way." What Corey gained from these programs is matched only by what he contributed through his hard work, insight, compassion, and commitment.
Currently in his junior year, Corey is a computer science major, resident assistant in Pondside III, and project manager for Habitat for Humanity. "Being a resident assistant is a great way to give to others the same support and guidance that was given to me through UB and Link…. Being a project manager for HFH is a great opportunity to make a difference for the greater good while getting my education."
As associate director of Aspire, another Trio program on campus designed in part to support first-generation college students, I have had many exciting discussions with Corey about his evolving goals. Corey explains, "I saw that technology is always going to be influencing us so I went the computer science route. My goal now is to take computer science and make an impact in the world with it through artificial intelligence."
He goes on to say, "There are people out there with disabilities that prevent them from functioning fully in society. Imagine if we had the technology to counteract the disability, whether it be physical or psychological. This technology could help individuals develop to their fullest potential and achieve their goals, just as I am going forward to achieve mine. My passion is to help others just like others have helped me."
When asked how his parents feel about him being in college, Corey says, "The hardest part for my mom is that I'm away from home and busy all the time…. She always tells me she's proud of what I'm doing." Corey's father also lets him know he's proud of him, and to show his support, he recently bought Corey a car, which allows him to get to work on Fridays.
Corry passes along some tips for others who are the first in their families to go to college: "Students should not let cost be the main factor. There are so many scholarships…sometimes there are financial restraints, but if one goes in with an ambitious attitude, then he/she can make things happen." Corey is living proof of this, having received Aspire grant awards and a scholarship from the New Hampshire Educational Opportunity Association.
Another bit of advice is to "immediately start utilizing the resources that are on campus. Keene State College has the academic and career advising department, and I've gone there for resume building and into the Aspire wing for class tutors. These resources have always helped me as a student at KSC."
One last tip: "Don't be afraid to ask questions. I know I had a lot of questions coming into the college application process and then had more questions once I was at college.
"I find that I am completely shaping my own future, which is really satisfying. I'm not following in other footsteps, I'm creating my own. I saw that I wanted to make a change in the world and that education was going to help me get there."
It is certainly a privilege for those of us at Keene State College to work with students like Corey as they strive to overcome barriers on their way to achieving their goals and having a positive impact on our world.