A First-Generation College Student is Making Her Parents Proud
Kellie Kirsch is a first-generation college student and Arizona Online senior studying nutritional science. Her hard-working parents inspired her to get her degree.
Kellie Kirsch says that college wasn't an option for her parents growing up.
"Going to college wasn't talked about much in my family because my parents never got that opportunity,” she said. “My parents expressed to me that if they could do anything differently, it would have been to get their degrees. Hearing that from them as an adult made an impact on me."
After Kellie graduated high school, started working, and started a family, she decided to pursue a degree in nutritional science from Arizona Online.
Kellie will receive her diploma in the Spring of 2023 and her father insists that she attend her graduation ceremony in person so the family can cheer her on. Kellie laughs, explaining that her graduation would be the first time the family will be on campus, including Kellie.
Kellie’s mother is Hispanic and her father is from Georgia. Kellie says that she is lucky to have grown up knowing two different cultures. Kellie is also grateful that both her parents worked hard to give Kellie and her brother every opportunity to pursue their passions.
While Kellie hasn’t received a higher education on campus, she has been making the most of her student experience. Kellie got involved with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona Near You (ASUA-NY) to make her resume shine and gain professional development.
ASUA-NY is the student government board that represents online and distance students. An advisor through her program told her about the opportunity, and Kellie is now the board president. Kellie has found this to be a rewarding learning experience and a way to advocate for her peers.
"Our goal is to spread awareness of and representation for online and distance students in any way we can. That means working with faculty, talking with advisors, organizing game nights, and holding town hall meetings where students can come and speak to us about any concerns or questions they might have. We're really here to enhance the student experience."
When Kellie is not in school, fulfilling her ASUA-NY duties, or spending time with her family, she works as a group fitness instructor in San Diego, California. Kellie has been a fitness instructor for more than 10 years, and she says it inspired her to go back to school to pursue her degree.
"Fitness is a huge passion of mine. I feel like I'm helping people for that one hour that I'm with them in a group fitness setting, but I want to do more on a bigger scale. That's when I really leaned into the whole nutrition, health, and lifestyle aspect."
When asked what experience has shaped Kellie’s life, Kellie immediately has an answer.
Becoming a mom. I do what I do because I want to show my kids that you can do anything you want to if you work hard.”
Kellie follows in her parents’ footsteps as a role model – someone who inspires their children to continue to pursue their dreams.
“They're in school, and mom's in school, so I'm right there along with them. My kids are the biggest motivation and driving force behind everything I do."