'My dad inspires me to never give up'
Major: Education, with a dual endorsement in Special Education
Hometown: Mabton, Yakima County
Plans after Graduation: Meza would like to work as a teacher in general or special education. He would especially like to work as a fourth-grade teacher, and make the classroom inclusive for all students. Meza struggled in elementary school, and his fourth-grade teacher made him realize that school was important.
More on first-generation students
Why did you decide to go to college?
It would make me the first person in my family to attend a university, and I wanted to prove to my parents that I could do it.
Where did you go for support? Academically? Socially?
I received a lot of help from the Student Outreach Services, and the academic advisers really helped me stay on track. When I won the Achievers scholarship funded by the College Success Foundation, they directed me to the outreach center. I also met a lot of people through pick-up soccer, and being social through playing soccer.
What was your biggest challenge in the first two years?
Adapting to new study habits. Growing up, I never truly learned what it meant to study and achieve in school. It was hard because I didn’t grow up with the best education.
What has helped you get through struggles?
My dad. His story inspires me to never give up even though I may do badly on a test. He was born in Mexico, and came to the U.S. when he was 18. Through perseverance he got his U.S. citizenship and moved to Washington. He started out working in the fields, and now he has a job at the Post Office.
What have your parents done throughout your time at college? Helped?
They helped me adjust when I moved out of the dorms, and helped me find an apartment and move in.
What is your proudest achievement?
Getting accepted into Woodring College of Education at Western. Through that and my scholarship, for the last year and a half I was an intern for the nonprofit that gave me the scholarship, the College Success Foundation. I advocate for foster youth, and I was a liason between 13 scholars at Western and the nonprofit who funded them. I hosted dinners and workshops.
The College Success Foundation funds a Passport Navigator Program, a peer mentoring program for Passport Scholars where students can also participate in the Passport for Foster Youth Promise Program. The Foster Youth Promise Program was created to help students from foster care prepare for and succeed in college.
What tips would you give to a college freshman?
Don’t be scared to ask for help, because not asking for help will lead to failure.
What have you learned in college that you will take with you after graduation?
I have learned how to network between peers, which I never did in high school. Through LinkedIn and email it is easier to reach out to people.
Being a first-generation college student has prepared me for any challenges that may come my way. Being raised by parents who overcame adversity and beat the odds has inspired me to pursue higher education and strive for success.
Interview by Brianna Kuplent, WWU Office of Communications and Marketing Intern