Former first-generation college students share advice with VC students

Former first-generation college students, from left, Bridget Thompson, Angelique Rodriguez, Claudia Amador, Lisa Washington and Lucero Gonzalez spoke at a forum for Victoria College KEY Center students on Nov. 10.

Victoria College’s KEY Center hosted its annual First-Generation Student Panel Discussion on Nov. 10 with five community professionals who were first-generation college students.

A first-generation college student is one who is the first their family to attend college. The panelists answered questions and encouraged current VC students to not give up on their higher-education pursuits.

Bridget Thompson, a registered nurse; Angelique Rodriguez, an aging and disability resources program specialist with the Golden Crescent Regional Planning Commission; Lisa Washington, lead tutor for Victoria College’s Tutoring Center; Claudia Amador, a nurse practitioner; and Lucero Gonzalez, a student at the University of Houston-Victoria, spoke about their higher-education journeys to a group of Victoria College’s KEY Center students.

“I never liked school,” Amador said. “I would always dread Sunday night because I had to go to school the next day. But I always knew to get ahead in life that I had to have an education. Even though I didn’t like school, I never stopped liking learning. I just knew education was the only way I could get to the next step where I wanted to be.”

Washington dropped out of high school when she was 16 years old. She obtained her GED and became a mechanic in the U.S. Army.

“I did that for a couple of years and really liked it,” Washington said. “I started having kids when I was 24. I was working in restaurants, but I knew if I wanted to have anything in my life, I would have to go to school and get a degree.”

Rodriguez started college when she was 33. She graduated from VC with an Associate of Science degree and then transferred to the University of Houston-Victoria, where she obtained a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“I am 42 now, and I’ll be getting my master’s in adult education in two years,” Rodriguez said. “You just have to keep going. You can’t let it get in your head that you’re going to stop, because, if you do, years will go by, and you’ll think you should have stuck with it. But you can’t get those years back.”

Thompson worked as a police officer at Alcoa before enrolling in Victoria College’s Vocational Nursing Program.

“When I went back to school, I asked myself, ‘What did I get myself into?,’ Everybody is Googling stuff, and I’m looking stuff up in books. But I figured things out. It’s never too late,” Thompson said.

Gonzalez attended Victoria College before transferring to UHV, where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology.

“In high school, I had to get tutored by someone. But, for some reason, I didn’t think tutoring was OK in college,” Gonzalez said. “I didn’t get tutoring until it was required in one of my English classes to get extra bonus points. Now I know the value of tutoring and even tutor part time at the KEY Center. My biggest piece of advice is to ask questions. There were a lot of questions I wanted to ask, but I didn’t want to feel like I didn’t know anything.”

The KEY Center is a TRIO Student Support Services program funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The KEY Center provides a supportive and academically enriching environment with services such as academic and career advising, individual tutoring, financial assistance, scholarships, counseling and free school supplies for qualified income-eligible, first-generation or disabled students.

For information on Victoria College’s KEY Center, call (361) 582-2414 or email