Carleton offers multiple means of support for students who are first in their families to attend college.
With the most diverse incoming class in Carleton’s history (39 percent identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color), the Class of 2024 also included the highest number of students who are the first in their families to attend college. This jump —from 11 percent in the Class of 2023 to 14 percent in the Class of 2024—was largely thanks to engaged alumni, parents, and friends of the college who together contributed more than $21.3 million in new endowed funds for financial aid during FY20.
Two recipients of this generosity, Katie Landacre ’21 and Eunice Valenzuela ’21, both experienced Carleton as first-generation students. That meant facing several challenges, including sporadic bouts of alienation, imposter syndrome, and confusion. But being an educational pioneer also produced a heightened sense of self-esteem as well. Even the smallest things felt like big accomplishments, Landacre said. “I have a sense of pride just from being here, so any good grades or successes become a cherry on top for me.”
We asked these seniors, both recipients of the Kautz Family Endowed Scholarship, to look back on their Carleton years and to look forward toward where they hope their education takes them.
Katie Landacre ’21
“I’m studying English at Carleton. In my role as a residential adviser, I worked with a lot of first-year students, and often I identified myself as a first-gen student. It was a way for me to connect and offer other first-gen students support as they navigated Carleton. So a part of being first-gen for me is also the connection. I definitely get my work ethic from my parents, and I couldn’t have made it this far without that.
“My dad always expected me to go to college just by seeing me care so much about school and seeing the work I put in. My mom loves that I’m going to Carleton. She says she would be proud of my going to any college, but a college of our caliber means she’s incredibly proud of me not only for getting in, but also for continuing to learn and grow and work hard. She was scared of being able to afford it at first, but she’s grateful for the financial aid I’ve gotten.
“In 20 years, I picture myself teaching. I’m not sure if it will be high school English or as a professor, but I know I love people, learning, and the language arts, and I couldn’t think of a better occupation to combine those things. And my mom tells me she’s super excited not only for me to be here, but also for the opportunities it’s opening for my future.”
Eunice Valenzuela ’21
“My parents are very happy and proud that I am attending college. Right now I’m a senior Japanese major and am the Japanese department’s student adviser, as well as a teaching assistant for the fall. I also work at the Center for Community and Civic Engagement as an academic civic engagement fellow and am helping develop a website about participatory action research, which aims to have those impacted by the study help lead its design.
“Being a first-gen college student means being a pioneer and a role model to other youth in my extended family who live in America and, like me, have educational opportunities their parents did not. I feel like I can encourage and inspire them to pursue higher education if they want to, even if they think they can’t. However, for me, being a first-gen college student, particularly one of color, comes with issues of imposter syndrome. Coming to a predominantly white campus sometimes makes me feel alienated. Fortunately, I remember all that I have learned and am now capable of.
“I hope that in 20 years I will be a teacher. I want my experiences at Carleton to come together and connect, and allow me to use a variety of research, interpersonal, and planning skills in my future career.”