Forging a path to success

LEADS 225x150
LEADS Center, Inclusion and Multicultural Services help first-generation students navigate the university experience.

For Kevin Wright, a junior computer information systems and business administration major, and Kathleen Short, a senior communications major, adjusting to university life wasn’t necessarily easy. As first-generation university students, they needed guidance to navigate a system that was entirely new to them. Now, as upper-level undergraduates, both Wright and Short say that they have created a foundation for long-term success – thanks in large part to the university’s various mentoring programs.

Finding the right resources for success as a student

Wright grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada and arrived at Northern Arizona University with the goal of starting his own youth group for underprivileged students. Coming from a modest financial background, Wright had hopes of someday helping those who grew up in similar situations to his own.

Once he reached college, however, Wright realized that his path might be more daunting than he originally thought. He had to work three campus jobs in order to pay tuition his freshman year, and was having a difficult time balancing his multiple commitments. When he was a freshman, he got involved with Student Support Services (SSS). By his sophomore year, Wright was involved with Inclusion and Multicultural Services (IMS) and the Leadership Engagement Achievement Diversity Service (LEADS) Center, and had found a support network that could help him realistically pursue his dreams.

It was definitely a group effort between all the offices and the wonderful people that work in the department,” Wright says. “That helped me realize how big of a responsibility my education is with all of my future goals. I’ve always been taught and raised to be thankful for every opportunity and everything that is a blessing in my life, but the LEADS Center somehow made me more grateful.”

Though the LEADS Center helps students financially, academically, and even socially, Wright says the support and compassion of its staff has given him the confidence to move forward and accomplish his own personal goals.

“I already know that when I graduate and I have a career, I’ll have the knowledge and resources to become successful,” Wright says. “If I had to pick one facet of NAU to give my thanks, it would definitely be the LEADS Center after all they’ve done for me.”

Keeping a straight focus

For Short, SSS played a similar role: without SSS, she says, Short wouldn’t have found the financial aid, moral support, or encouragement to even stay in college.

Originally from Phoenix, Arizona, Short says she decided to attend Northern Arizona University after studying at a community college her freshman year. She visited the Flagstaff campus and immediately fell in love with the sense of community that she found.

When Short arrived for her sophomore year, however, she discovered the trials and tribulations of being a first-generation student, including not knowing how to access resources or adapt to a higher level of education. Coming from a Filipino family who had little experience with American universities, Short did not know what to expect upon arriving at Northern Arizona University, and says if she hadn’t gotten involved with SSS, the LEADS Center, and the IMS, she probably wouldn’t be on the path to graduation.

“All I can say is that without the community and support systems I had here to help me figure out what I want to do and where to go when I needed help, I wouldn’t be in college,” Short says. “I would have dropped out a long time ago.”

Short says that, thanks to the guidance she’s received, she is able to pursue her long term goalof becoming a talk show host, through her classes, peers, and the support system she found at the LEADS Center. Even though she is well on her way to finishing a successful university career, Short says she’s still free to seek guidance and advice thanks in part to the close-knit relationship she’s developed with her SSS mentors.

“It’s such a strong support system to say the least,” Short says. “It’s the community.  It’s the support.  It’s the feeling that as soon as you meet your advisers, you’re already part of their family.”