First generation event offers encouragement to students


Stuart Pate

Gabriella Zumwalt was the guest speaker at the First Generation Event.

Stuart Pate, Staff Writer

Gabriella Zumwalt naturally took the podium and presented an authentic inner strength as the keynote speaker at The Fifth Annual First Generation Event on Nov. 10 where students and faculty were inducted into Tri – Alpha first generation student honor’s society.  

Zumwalt began by saying “I hope my story will help you to see how awesome you are and how inspiring your story is to generations that follow.” 

This native of La Paz, Bolivia came to the United States at the age of 19 with no intention of going to college. With the urging of her mother and after seeing college students at her job cleaning UW dorms, Zumwalt enrolled at Madison College to learn English. 

After a couple of semesters, Zumwalt took the initiative to enroll in her first college level class, English 1. 

“I didn’t understand 80% of what was being said,” she said. Working three jobs, her endeavor resulted in an “F.” She withdrew from the class but didn’t concede defeat.  

She re-enrolled, but this time sought out help. By approaching campus organizations such as Trio and the First Gen Club, Zumwalt learned the vocabulary of a college student.  

Zumwalt became aware of terms like FAFSA, GPA, and writing center. All terms that may be new but are crucial for a first-generation college student. 

Taking English 1 a second time, Zumwalt earned an “A.” 

She continued to excel in her college career by relying on services offered at Madison College. 

Zumwalt earned an associate’s degree in human services and is currently awaiting word regarding her application to UW – Madison’s Psychology Program. Currently she works for Madison College as a student support specialist for the School of Academic Advancement.  

“It’s amazing, the power of helping the community,” she said. 

Zumwalt’s advice is to be the guide and let other’s above you guide you as well.  

As she puts it, “A rough beginning doesn’t mean a rough ending.”