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.
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.
I 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.