Our Stories

Research shows that being the first person in your family to attend college is a risk factor for enrollment and persistence, even when demographics and academic preparedness factors are controlled. While first-generation college-bound students struggle nationally, we enjoy many successes among this population of students at Loyola University New Orleans.

Each year, nearly one-third of our first-year students identify as the first in their families to attend college. First in the Pack celebrates the members of the Loyola University New Orleans community who are or were the first in their families to attend college.

Here are our stories

Adrienne Blanco, CPA, Budget Manager

I always knew I wanted to go to college even though I don’t know where the “idea” came from. Both of my parents graduated from high school but neither of them went to college. I learned later in life that my mom actually wanted to go to college, applied to college and got accepted. She thought this was her way out of...

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Amy Boyle, Director of Residential Life

Have you heard of the phrase, “little fish in a big pond”? Do you know that feels like? I went to a Catholic high school and graduated with a class of 143 students and I would venture to say I was a BWOC (big woman on campus). I knew EVERYONE and that kept me confident and engaged in my academics and social life. Like you might expect, all of that changed when I went to...

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Donna Rochon CPP, MSM, Human Resources

When I compare the paperwork that my daughter completed to attend college versus mine years ago, all I can say is Wow! It’s all online—back then it was paper. My dad finished sixth grade and became a construction worker. Like my mom, I graduated high school as Valedictorian, only I didn’t stay home with five children. Although it was my mom’s dream for her children to attend college, I was the rebellious one and wanted no part of the college drama--I wanted...

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Dr. Barbara Ewell, Professor of English

I always knew that I would go to college, mostly because my Daddy didn’t. He took a couple of semesters at LSU, but he had to quit before he could get a degree, a fact he always regretted. So he made it clear that, after high school, college was the next step for his daughters—all six of us. He knew—and reminded us often—that no one can take an education...

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Dr. Laura Murphy, Assistant Professor of English

I must have been in third grade the year Cristy Lawson and her evil little sister Sharon decided it was the Year of Magical Beatings for me. Every day I was forced to catch the bus in front of their house on the corner of my street, and every day I was forced to endure their horrific brutality. They would come out of their house just before the bus came, and while no one was...

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Maria McBride , Academic Advisor

I am sure this is not the first time you’ve heard this story and it certainly won’t be the last. I am also pretty certain that most of us have a story like this in common. My parents Roberto and Teresa Robles emigrated from Mexico to “El Norte” (U.S.) in the early 1980’s in search for a better life. With only the clothes on their back and a...

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Virginia Donaldson Olander, B.M. 1973, M.M.Ed. 1980

1969: The only way I could pursue a college education was to receive a scholarship, take out a student loan and live at home. A native New Orleanian, I had studied piano since the age of 6, sang in the church choir and the honor chorus in high school. My beloved piano teacher was a graduate of the College of Music at Loyola.

In my senior year of high school, I applied to Loyola and the College of Music, auditioned for a scholarship and took a theory test. I was thrilled to receive...

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