By Jose Morales Diaz

I am a first-generation college student and currently a junior at the University of Utah majoring in communication studies. I’m originally from Mexico, but was raised in Salt Lake City. One of my passions is helping students succeed, as I love working within student services in higher education. I hope to eventually become a student affairs professional after obtaining my master’s degree in educational leadership and policy, and possibly a doctorate degree afterwards.USICoachJose

Starting college right after high school was a big leap for me and my family. Since middle school, I knew college was something I wanted to pursue. As I transitioned into high school, I got involved in college-prep programs such as AVID and GEAR UP that helped me utilize my resources and options for after high school. Both programs were very supportive and was a huge influence in my decision to attend college. In high school, I worked hard to maintain an above-average GPA, while participating in after school clubs, and becoming involved in student government. I also kept in constant contact with my AVID professors and GEAR UP counselors to discuss my college options. I worked a lot with my Utah College Advising Corps (UCAC) advisor to explore and apply for as many scholarships as I could. After I graduated from high school, I was offered a $3,000 scholarship from West High School for all the years of hard work.

JoseBlogI applied to the University of Utah (U of U), Westminster College, and Salt Lake Community College (SLCC). I ended up attending SLCC, which offered me a more affordable college choice. Choosing to attend a community college first was the best decision I could have taken. Smaller class sizes, top quality learning, flexibility, and supportive academic and student resources made my college experience at SLCC top notch. Because I worked as a Peer Mentor for SLCC’s Summer Bridge program, I gained experience from working within higher education. It was at this point I realized my future career was in higher education and student services.

My transition from SLCC to the U of U was very smooth thanks to Paul Fisk, the Transfer Program Coordinator in the Office for Student Equity & Diversity at the U of U, who advised and mentored me all the way through. Thanks to his generous help and an ethnic studies transfer class he co-taught, I was successful my first semester at the U of U. Now, I have the honor of working alongside Paul as a peer mentor and becoming involved with new projects for the Diversity Scholars Transfer Program. This summer, I plan on participating in assessment-related professional development opportunities through the University’s Career Services. I was also recently awarded a $3,500 scholarship from the U of U Alumni Association for the 2016-17 school year. I make every step of my journey a valuable one and encourage you to follow your dreams, college aspirations, and become humble role model.

Jose is a student at the University of Utah and works as a peer mentor for the U of U’s Office for Student Equity & Diversity. He is also a Utah Scholars coach, where he helps prepare high school students for college. Connect with him on Instagram @jmoraldz and on Twitter @JoseEMoralisDi1.