Faith and Family: First-Gen Student Finds Her Way


In her initial year at St. Ambrose, first-generation student Faith Boyd struggled.

Struggled with the cost of a college education and how it would impact her family.

"Being a first-generation college student was stressful on me, and my parents, too," said Boyd, who is the oldest of seven children in her Rockford, Illinois, family. "They didn't know what advice to give me."

During her college search, Boyd knew she wanted to ultimately pursue a career as a physical therapist, and while she had a guaranteed spot in a graduate program elsewhere, she was attracted to St. Ambrose and determined to pursue her undergrad degree here.

Now in her senior year, Boyd expects to collect her Bachelor of Exercise Science degree in May 2020, having had a full and rich Ambrosian experience.

But it took a while.

Boyd was timid her freshman year, unsure of herself and her choices. She became more confident after she connected with people on campus. "There was no greater way for me to figure out how I was going to achieve the goals I set for myself than talking to people who have been in similar predicaments," she said.

When she landed a residence adviser position, it came with additional aid including free housing and a monthly stipend. "Not only was it a weight lifted off of my shoulders, it was a weight off my mom's shoulders as well," she said.

Fritz Dieudonné, coordinator of Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, frequently encounters first-generation students who, like Boyd, are determined to be at St. Ambrose. They manage challenging academic programs and multiple jobs on and off campus, and stay actively involved in campus life.

The burden is significant, he said.

"All of it is because they want to be here. Not just, ‘I want to go to college,' but they want to be here," Dieudonné explained.

It's vital for students to make use of all of the resources the university provides, like the Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office, Financial Aid and others, he said.

Today, as a resident adviser, Boyd encourages students she works with to make those relationships with faculty and staff, and to do so early. She attributes her success, in part, to the guidance she received from people on campus who served as advocates.

Boyd plans to "pay it forward" as a future physical therapist working with elderly patients or children. "People who just need my help," she said.

faith boyd with family

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