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 (38 percent identify as Black, Indigenous, or people of color), the Class of 2024 also includes 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 of this fall’s incoming class — is 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 the past year.
Motivated by the Ignat Challenge — which matched outright commitments of $50,000 to $2.5 million that create or add to existing scholarships for first-generation, Pell Grant–eligible, or low-income students — some donors created new funds while others added to existing funds such as the Kautz Family Scholarship.
Two recipients of the Kautz scholarship, Katie Landacre ’21 and Eunice Valenzuela ’21, both say being a first-generation student at Carleton comes with challenges, which can include sporadic bouts of alienation, imposter syndrome, and confusion. But being an educational pioneer often produces a heightened sense of self-esteem as well. Even the smallest things feel like big accomplishments, Landacre says: “I have a sense of pride just from being here, so any good grades or successes become a cherry on top for me.”
We contacted both seniors to find out more about their beginnings, their time at Carleton, and what they’re looking forward to after graduation.
Katie Landacre ’21
“At age 20, my dad was cleaning and tending the bar his parents owned in Spencer, Idaho. He and his parents also lived there, in the bar’s living quarters. During the summer, he worked as a hod carrier, someone who carries bricks for bricklayers. And he had a third job working at the local potato factory as a foreman during harvest season.
“As for my mom, at 20 she was living in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, first with a family she babysat for and later with a high school classmate. She worked as a nursing assistant in two different nursing homes, and she also had a third job as a personal care assistant for a young girl with a terminal disease. She wanted to go to nursing school, and at age 21 she attempted it. But she couldn’t afford college without working her three jobs, and she couldn’t balance work and classes.”
“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
“When my dad was 20, he was married to my mom and working at a box-manufacturing company in Tela Bay, Honduras. My mom stayed home to take care of my sister, who was really young then. They both had wanted to go to college, but my dad participated in trainings and classes to become an accountant at his company and stayed on there instead. My mom’s family was low-income, so going to college wasn’t an option for her.”
“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 a 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.”
Established in 2009, the Kautz Family Endowed Scholarship was one of just a handful of funds that gave preference to first-generation students. Inspired by the Ignat Challenge, Leslie Kautz ’80, P ’15 and Jack Weiss P ’15 pumped up the fund in 2019 to further help low-income and first-generation students.
“The transformative possibilities of a great education should be more widely available, and the Kautz Scholarship was meant to further that goal,” says Leslie Kautz.
The Kautz Scholarship, which has helped more than 50 deserving students access Carleton’s life-changing education, is now one of 37 endowed Carleton funds directed toward helping first-generation students.