“When my mother passed from domestic violence at the hands of my father when I was three years old, it had a dramatic impact on me and my older brother. My father was in prison until I was 25 and died from alcoholism, and my brother eventually committed suicide. Of that union, I am the last one left. The only thing that was different for me was that I was given the opportunity to go to school—this is what truly allowed me to be where I am today.

I was always told that my mother was smart—she was the valedictorian of her high school. I clung to the idea that academics were important. Nonetheless, my family had a history of veterans and I was also military-bound my senior year of high school. When my uncle found out I was one step away from finalizing entrance into the Army, he told me, ‘We have plenty of vets in the family. We have no college graduates.’ That made the decision for me.

I went to the University of Arizona and later completed a master’s at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I participated in TRIO while in my undergraduate years, which provided me with an amazing life. Today, there are a few college graduates in my family, but I was the very first one because of TRIO and other college support programs.”

—Kyle Ethelbah, TRIO director

The U will celebrate National First-Generation Student Week the first week of November. Look for more details in the coming weeks.

We’ll be featuring Humans of the U and sharing their stories throughout the year with the university community. If you know someone with a compelling story, let us know at