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First-generation college students excited to begin their journeys

During graduation season, some high school students have one more reason to be excited for their next chapter.

COLORADO, USA — Roughly a third of students readying to go to college in the fall will be the first in their families to do so, according to the US Department of Education.

9NEWS wanted to talk to a few of them to see what inspires them and which Universities will become their homes for the next four years.

They all told us they found inspiration through their families. Each are recipients of the prestigious Daniels Fund Scholarships. 

Daniels Fund Scholarships awards four-year college scholarships that can be used at any accredited nonprofit U.S. college or university. Students are selected each year from Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Nayla Hernandez, Bishop Machebeuf High School

Nayla’s smile broadens as she talks about her faith, her future and her parents.

When asked about how excited she is for the rest of her life, on a scale of one to 10, she blurts out, “A 12!  I’m very excited.”

She plans on attending the University of Notre Dame later this year.

She credits her parents for inspiring her love of reading and hard work.

“My mom is one of the hardest working persons I know,” she said. “My dad, in a similar way, just stressed the importance of having an education.”

I ask her what it means to be first.

“Just to show my little sisters that it is attainable as difficult as it might be at times,” she answered.

She wants to come back to Colorado once she’s done with her education – possibly to become a teacher.

“I want to help my community as much as possible. Help my parents,” she said.

Jose Cabrera, Arrupe Jesuit High School

Jose Cabrera has no problem telling you he’s driven.

“Oh yes. Absolutely,” he said.

He plans on going to the University of Colorado Boulder in the fall.  He wants to study mechanical engineering.

He said his parents are why he’s so driven.

“With me they always said that education is something I should dedicate myself to,” he said.

Is it hard being the first?

“There’s definitely some sort of pressure to it. Definitely,” he said.

Not that it’s too much, he added.

“With all of this I should be able to help my parents and everything. Making sure they can live a comfortable life,” he said.

Sean Nelson, homeschooled

Sean Nelson plans on studying history in college.


“Well, to know history is critical. Those who don’t know it are destined to repeat it,” he said.

He will attend Colorado State University later this year.  He’d like to turn his undergraduate degree into a law degree eventually.

“First and foremost, I want to be a role model for my younger brothers,” he said.

He also said he frowns a bit when older folks look down on teens. “I do feel optimistic for the future,” he said.

Is it in good hands?

“I’d certainly like to think so,” he replied.

Joseph Asfaw, Overland High school

Joseph Asfaw has a bright smile. He smiles a lot.

It’s probably not a coincidence he wants to be a dentist. “I’ve had quite the, uh, quite the experience. I have braces right now. This is my, I think, fifth year,” he said.

He smiled when he said that.

He credits his mom and dad – both Ethiopian – for keeping him focused when it comes to his goals.

“I like to say I’m accomplishing the dreams that they had,” he said.

Without them, he added, “I wouldn’t be here right now to accomplish my dreams and be able to do the things I want to do.”

“I see an education as a way to find yourself,” he said.  

RELATED: MSU to offer tuition-free education to all Native American, Indigenous students

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