Fulton Benefits from First Generation College Student Resources
Although national statistics show that 75 percent of first generation college students leave school before receiving a degree, UST student Erica Fulton has never been one to give up.
Fulton has faced many obstacles over the years, but her aspiration to obtain a degree has never wavered. A first-generation theology major, she arrived at UST in 2006. The death of her husband in 2007 prompted her to take time off and reorganize her life, but in 2008 she returned to UST, began a theology degree and is working hard toward her goal of becoming a full-time hospital chaplain.
“I can empathize with people who have lost loved ones,” said Fulton. “And the theology classes at St. Thomas have helped me to understand my Catholic faith better. The more I think about my background and the experiences God has allowed me to pass through, the more I feel drawn toward this career.”
Fulton will graduate with a theology bachelor’s degree in May. She made the dean’s list twice and was recognized by the Chi Rho Theology club as the 2011 Outstanding Member of the Year for her service as secretary. She plans to continue her education at St. Mary’s Seminary in Houston and obtain a Master of Divinity.
During her time at St. Thomas, Fulton has been a devoted participant in the First Generation College Student group on campus. First generation students, who come from families where neither parent has received a bachelor’s degree, face unique challenges because they don’t have the firsthand guidance many students receive from their parents.
“Being part of the first generation group has really been an enormous blessing to me,” said Fulton “It has given me motivation and encouragement knowing I’m not the only one on campus who’s a first generation college student.”
Yolanda Norman, director of Residence Life, co-advises the group every other Friday from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. in Crooker Center.
“Erica has been to every meeting since the group started,” said Norman. “She asks great questions and provides great advice to others. She has expressed many times how much the group has helped her and how thankful she is we have it here at UST. She is amazing and has a very moving story to tell about her college journey and what it took to get here.”
The group is composed of faculty, staff and students who meet to share ideas and support each other. The faculty and staff share stories and advice from their college experiences and guide the students in building resumes, finding scholarships and interviewing for jobs.
“As a first generation student myself, I frequently heard the message that college success was difficult, maybe even impossible,” said Dr. Ricardo Montelongo, director for Student Success at St. Thomas. “The First Generation group is a great opportunity to find formal and informal support. Students share strategies, give advice and celebrate their achievements, while staff and faculty connect them to campus resources, share their own stories and make sure the students know help is always within reach.”
Students interested in joining the group and faculty and staff interested in helping should contact Yolanda Norman at 713-525-3836 or firstname.lastname@example.org.