KEY Center panelists

Five panelists discuss their college careers as first-generation college students and the struggles they faced during a Q&A in the KEY Center at Victoria College on Tuesday. Panelists, from left, are Donny Carroll, registered nurse; Deb Crislip-Baker, Victoria College Student Success department chairperson; Ruby Boone, assistant district attorney; Bridgette Marshall, Victoria College English professor; Robert Sanchez, University of Houston-Victoria academic adviser.

Victoria College English professor Bridgette Marshall took about six years to get a bachelor’s degree.

“Things happen. Life happens,” Marshall said. “Slow progress is still progress.”

Marshall was one of five panelists who spoke about their college journey as first-generation college students at the Victoria College KEY Center on Wednesday afternoon.

The center hosted the event in conjunction with other TRIO Student Support Services across the country, center director Pam Neuman said.

The KEY Center is a grant program funded through the U.S. Department of Education and it supports about 165 low-income and first-generation students.

About 30 students filed into the KEY Center. They sat at round tables among rows of computers. Neuman encouraged them to ask questions and engage with the five college graduates.

“They have something in common with the majority of ya’ll,” she said. “They are first-generation college students.”

Victoria College student Kayla Jarchow said it was inspiring to listen to people who experienced what she is going through now.

“It helps a lot to hear,” she said.

Jarchow is attending classes at Victoria College while raising her 8-year-old son, which has been difficult.

“They went through the same things I have,” she said.

Other factors get in the way of a college degree, but Marshall said students should push past them and keep their goals in mind.

While getting her bachelor’s, she had a child, but she persisted, she said.

Growing up, Marshall said she knew she was going to college, but she and her family didn’t know the steps to get there.

“I was always told I was going to college and that was the end of it,” she said.

She encouraged students to get to know their campus and take advantage of the resources available. Being a first-generation college student, there were many things she didn’t know.

Assistant district attorney Ruby Boone agreed with Marshall and added that support is also important to get a college degree.

Boone knew she wanted to be an attorney, but her father told her that she should look at getting a job and making money. Her family didn’t have the money to send her to school, so he wanted her to be realistic with her goals.

Her mother and peers pushed her to go to school and be anything she wanted to be, Boone explained.

“Other people believed in me before I believed in myself,” she said.

Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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