University at Albany
 

First-Generation Grads Thank Their Families

Commencement is a time for families to celebrate the individual achievements of their graduates. It is also a time when families feel a sense of accomplishment as a whole. Some students follow in their parents footsteps by attending their alma mater or choosing the same course of study as their mother or father. Others may become the very first members of their families to reach this important hallmark. Rockefeller College is proud to share the stories of four families who are celebrating first time college graduates this year.

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Rita Akrofi was born in Ghana. As a child, she lived with her aunt while her mother immigrated to the United States in search of work and a better life for her family. In 2006, Rita joined her mother in America. She was excited to be with her mom, but she was uncomfortable in the school system; language was a barrier and she was often bullied. Her mother helped her overcome the desire to leave school and encouraged her by her example of working hard to achieve her goals. Rita's cousin Bernice encouraged her to apply to the University at Albany and she successfully completed a political science degree. Rita hopes to attend law school but first she'll take a year off to help her mother whom she calls the "wonder woman" who supported her and motivatd her throughout her educational journey. "One must look to the past to help move forward into the future," says Rita. In addition to family, Rita credits the professors and staff of Rockefeller College with providing her with the positive encouragement that made the difference in her success.

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John Valentino describes himself as a son of blue-collar workers. He writes in his personal statement, "My parents wished a better quality of life for me." John decided to attend the University at Albany because of its fine reputation. He chose to major in political science and later on set his sights on attending law school. John is proud to say that his parents taught him about ambition and instilled a strong work ethic in him from a young age. Upon graduation, John will be working for IBM. He credits his parents for his success noting, "Without their sacrifices and lessons, I wouldn't be where I am today."

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Fiorella Bini, daughter of a Venezuelan mother and Ecuadorian-Italian father, came to the United States with her parents when she was one. Her parents, who never attended college and who spoke primarily Spanish at home, made education a priority for Fiorella and her younger brother.  Fiorella went to a private Catholic school in Manhattan and then decided to attend the University at Albany because she wanted to major in political science; however, she was not accepted as a freshman and spent her first year in St. Joseph's College in Brooklyn. Persistence and preparation paid off though; Fiorella once again applied for admission to the University at Albany and was accepted. A double major in political science and Spanish at UAlbany, Fiorella graduates this May. As a member of the Alpha Zi Delta, one of the oldest women's fraternities in the United States, she helped raise over $1,800 for Autism Speaks this year. Fiorella notes that UAlbany and her parents taught her the importance of giving back while following your dream. She plans to pursue a master's degree in international affairs at St. John's University and spend at least one semester in Rome.

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Kolby Patterson of Alburgh, Vermont, just returned from Washington, D.C. after interning in the office of Congressman Peter Welch. Kolby thanks his parents for supporting him during his college years and for financially helping him with his choice to attend Rockefeller's Semester in Washington program. While Kolby's parents didn't attend college, they understood the importance of undergraduate education and always wanted what was best for him. Kolby's plans to pursue a career in homeland security. He is in the process of finalizing his next steps to accomplish that vision. Kolby wanted to thank his parents for their amazing support and understanding.
 

Congratulates grads!