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First Generation Students

First Generation Student Celebration
Keene State President Melinda Treadwell

As the first in my family to attend college, I had no role models to help me navigate the higher ed experience or launch my life after graduation.
Fortunately, I had mentors and guides along the way. Caring and committed staff, faculty, advisors and friends recognized my potential and determination, and helped me reach my goals. They made all the difference to my success in college and beyond. Keene State College taught me to believe I could achieve anything I set my mind to, and gave me the confidence to become a fierce, compassionate, and progressive leader.”

-Melinda Treadwell, Ph.D. ’90
President of Keene State College

Ashley Bettancourt Women and Gender Studies

My experience as a first-generation student in Keene State has been mind blowing to say the least. My parents always encouraged higher education during my upbringing, hoping for a better future for myself. They’re migrants of Puerto Rico; My father never completed high school while my mother received her GED. My college degree will ultimately represent a tangible piece of their American Dream. When I first arrived on campus I was lost and overwhelmed, over the years I’ve witnessed my own development. Although we’re here for our education you learn about yourself more than ever.  Get involved and build yourself…you are your own brand in this world. My education is my weapon and it will be yours as well! ”

-Ashley Betancourt ‘19

Sophia Peebles

Being a first generation college student is stressful. I know that my parents believe in me and they are so proud to see their first kid go off to college, which makes this stressful. Though I am settled into college now, I still worry about failing and disappointing my parents. But I am passionate about the future I want and that keeps me striving. Trio was a huge help. Being able to move in early and have a group of people that I would know on campus was great. It reduced my anxiety of having to make a whole new friend group. It made me feel welcomed immediately because on the first week of classes, everywhere I turned there was another student in the trio program smiling and waving ‘hi’. And I knew they were just as nervous as me.”

-Sophie Peebles Class of 2023

Gerogia Panagoitidis

I never knew how impactful graduating from college would be to me, as a low income, first generation American and first-generation college student. That journey was a rewarding experience and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I worked through struggles and challenges that were different than many of my peers, but by actively seeking support and advocating for myself I was able to create a support system on campus that helped me persevere through those obstacles. I loved and highly enjoyed my time at Keene State College.”

-Georgia Panagiotidis
Class of 2017 

Nora Traviss

I was the first person in my family to go to college.  Because I was always fascinated with how things are made, and loved math and science,  I choose to study chemical engineering.  But while high school was easy, college was not!  I didn’t feel prepared and barely passed my freshman semester.  My advisor at Penn State helped me navigate the challenges of being a woman in engineering student and the first in my family to go to college.  There were many times I struggled in college, academically and financially.  My advisor helped me find a paid internship program which helped me succeed.  When I graduated with a degree from Penn State, I immediately went to work as a Plant Engineer for Praxair Inc.  Eventually I became an environmental health and safety professional and many years later, I went back to school for my PhD in Environmental Studies.  Being a professor and researcher is my 4th career!
College opened so many doors for me personally and professionally, and I have loved to be able to pursue a career in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math).  Today at Keene State College, I get to pursue meaningful research studying the physical, chemical and biological characteristics of particles generated by biofuels combustion.  And I get to mentor the next generation of First Generation students and scientists.  I am proud to teach at an institution that focuses on first generation students.  Thinking how instrumental my advisor was to my success (I almost dropped out!), I am very pleased to pay it forward at KSC, and am particularly aware of the challenges facing first generation students, as I lived the experience.”

-Nora Traviss, PhD
Professor of Environmental Studies

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