Role Models

People We Admire

Although first-generation college students are the first in their family to attend college, they are not alone. There are many first-generation college graduates who have successfully overcome challenges and risen to leadership in their fields. They share their wisdom, give back to the community and serve as an inspiration to all. Here are some success first-generation stories to share as you craft your own.

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Michelle Obama


Michelle Obama made history by becoming the first First Lady of United States of African American descent. Michelle Obama, originally Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, attended Princeton University and graduated cum laude with a B.A. in Sociology. Following that, she graduated from Harvard Law School in 1988, and began working at a Chicago law firm, where she met her husband Barack Obama. In 1993, she worked as the Executive Director for Public Allies Chicago, which provides job training to young adults. Before becoming the First Lady in 2009 and continuing her devotion to education, Obama was named one of Harvard’s most influential alumni in the 2007 edition of “The Harvard 100”.

Obama was born in Chicago, Illinois in 1964. She grew up with her parents and older brother, Craig, with whom she shared a room in their bungalow home. Her father was a city-pump operator, while her mother was a secretary. During and after her time as First Lady, she has been open about her struggles as a first-generation college student to encourage low-income students that they too can become the first in their family to attend college. The former First Lady has supported the organization Better Make Room, and has spoken at their summit to provide first-generation college students some of her tips, among which includes a reminder to ask for help. Her most recent program, Global Girls Alliance, supports grassroots organizations catering to girls education by providing financial resources and connecting leaders.