First in the Family

When you are the first in your immediate family to go to college, the path to enrollment is often full of roadblocks. Not only are there financial hurdles and a lack of access to information about the application process, but in many cases there’s also an attitude barrier created by loved ones who did not receive the benefit of a college experience.

Lakeysha DeLeon knows about these obstacles firsthand. Neither her parents nor her brother attended college, and out of eight aunts and uncles on her mother’s side, only one aunt went on to receive postsecondary education.

“After graduating from high school, my mother told me to get a job and not to waste my time on more school,” Lakeysha says. “I had applied to ASU in my senior year and was admitted, but didn’t have the finances to go, and my family didn’t know how to help me apply for loans or scholarships.”

Lakeysha wasn’t deterred, but decided to enter the workforce and return to school once she was able to pay for it herself. She began working for a company that provided tuition assistance and received her associate’s degree from the University of Phoenix. Soon, however, she realized the frustrations that come with not having a full degree in an office environment.

“I didn’t like that people were able to advance professionally just because they had a piece of paper,” she says. “That was motivation for me.”

At the time, Lakeysha, her husband and two daughters were living in San Antonio, Texas, where her husband was stationed with the military. Once they had moved back to the Phoenix area, Lakeysha was prepared to make the drive to Tempe from Goodyear, but after speaking with admissions, learned about ASU Online.

“Then my husband got orders to go out of the country for a year,” she says. “Had the admissions counselor not told me about ASU Online, I never would have been able to do it.”

Though Lakeysha remained in Arizona with their daughters, the flexibility of being an online student allowed her family to go on with life while she attended class from anywhere.

“I took them to appointments, to cheer and gymnastics,” she says. “I tried to keep them busy so their minds weren’t always on their dad being gone. It was great to be able to sit in on lectures with my laptop and headphones — I didn’t have to worry about managing it all. We were even able to take vacations. I had the flexibility to work toward my bachelor’s degree from anywhere.”

Lakeysha utilized ASU Online’s tutoring resources for some of her classes, and found the entire program to be supportive and approachable toward achieving her goals. She also got involved with as many of the in-person student activities as possible. “Initially you feel disconnected, being online,” Lakeysha explains.

“But I found the ASU Online Facebook group, which made me feel connected to people closer to the school. And I’m not afraid to go to campus when possible. I get all the emails about the upcoming pizza parties, pool parties, etc. We went to homecoming this year, which was a lot of fun. My daughters got to walk the campus and see the different clubs. We’re just as much a part of ASU as other students.”

As the first in her family to attend college, having her daughters share in the experience is especially important.

“I want them to know going to college isn’t optional,” Lakeysha says. “For them, college will be more embedded, as opposed to my situation where it was discouraged.”

Lakeysha will finish her degree at the end of February, and is starting to look for work.

“My husband is hitting his 20-year mark with the military,” she explains. “I’ll be graduating and he’ll be retiring. We’ll be starting a new life, and I want to find a job, a career where I can be for years. I finally feel like I can get a position I deserve, rather than simply looking at whoever is hiring.”

Though she doesn’t have a complete vision of her dream job just yet, Lakeysha is looking into military family advocacy with her degree in family and human development. She hopes to help other kids or students who find themselves in situations like hers.

Speaking of which, how does her family feel about her upcoming graduation?

“My family is definitely proud of me now,” Lakeysha says. “My mom brags to all of her friends, she is really proud. We talk about it and how she made it a little more difficult, but as an adult and parent, you move past things. I don’t let other people decide what I’m going to do.”

Learn more about ASU Online’s bachelor’s degree in family and human development.

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