Colorado State University’s First Generation Scholarship Program Changes Lives

Note to Editors: The 2000-2001 First Generation Award Recognition Dinner Feb. 13 will honor 255 students and their families. This special evening, which begins at 5:15 p.m. in the Lory Student Center Main Ballroom, will honor the personal and academic achievements of first generation students and Colorado State University’s commitment to encourage all students from all backgrounds to complete their education. President Albert Yates will extend the official welcome of the evening. Interviews with award recipients are available by calling Jennifer Dimas at (970) 491-1194.

Huma Babak, a Colorado State senior majoring in computer science knows all about sacrifice and hard work. She knew at age 13, when she left her native Afghanistan, that she wanted a better life. As a result of her effort, Babak will celebrate her personal and academic achievements at Colorado State University’s First Generation Award Recognition Dinner Feb. 13.

"When I came to America, my dream was to become well educated," said Babak. "I didn’t have that opportunity where I came from, so I wanted to make the most of it. Sometimes I would stay up all night studying." Babak will speak as one of the distinguished award recipients at the First Generation Award Recognition Dinner. The purpose of the program is to encourage participation in higher education by first-generation college students who have significant financial need and to promote diversity within the university’s student population.

Babak, an honors student who will graduate this May, will begin her career with Agilent Technologies where she currently interns on the software development team. Babak said that the First Generation program has been the key to her success and has helped her live by her favorite quote from Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see in the world." Jessica Virgil-Retana, a senior sociology major at Colorado State, also will speak as a distinguished First Generation Award recipient. Virgil-Retana became a teen parent before completing her high school education at Skyline High School in Longmont.

"No one in my family had ever gone to college," said Virgil-Retana. "It was very difficult to juggle the care of my children with my college education." With the support of the First Generation Program and the encouragement of her professors, she was able set and achieve high goals for herself. "I wanted my children to know the importance of education and to always strive for what you want in life," Virgil-Retana said. Today, she is exploring graduate programs in criminal justice and inspiring her husband, who is waiting to pursue his educational goals.

Other distinguished award recipients include Alyssa Eberly, a junior business administration major from Fort Lupton; Cherre’ Nix, a microbiology major who graduated from Montbello High School; and Rodney Sisneros, a junior biology major from Greeley.

Since the First Generation Award program was created 17 years ago, it has awarded $9.09 million to 1,372 students. The award recipient group has been composed of students from all ethnic backgrounds, and has included non-traditional and disabled students.

For more information on the First Generation Award program, call Barb Musslewhite at (970) 491-7711. Applications for the 2001-2002 school year are due by April 2.