The University of Central Missouri is committed to helping all students learn and graduate with the skills they need to be successful. Unfortunately, many students struggle with the cost of higher education, especially first-generation students—students who are the first in their family to attend college.



Sergio Del Toro is not only a first-generation college student, but also the first generation to graduate high school on his father’s side of the family.


“One big reason why I wanted to go to college was to be the difference maker in my family,” he said. “I wanted to be the first one in my family to try this college stuff. No one in my family has ever attended college. They barely graduated high school and think that is the greatest achievement, but I feel like that’s just the early stages.”


When Del Toro first enrolled at UCM, he thought tuition was due at the beginning of each school year. Being a first-generation student, he was unaware tuition was paid on a per-semester basis. By the time tuition came due for the second semester, he had already exhausted other means of financing, such as work study, to pay for college. He reached out for guidance and applied for a scholarship, but wasn’t selected.


He experienced extreme stress while trying to find a way to continue to pay for his education. It was a scholarship from the Alumni Foundation that relieved his stress and provided the much-needed financial support allowing him to continue to stay enrolled at UCM.


Del Toro is now in his second year as an electrical engineering technology major and said he has ambitious plans about continuing to be a trailblazer in his family.


“I want to be a role model for my youngest siblings,” he said. “My brother who just graduated, I want to show him there is a way to do this. It’s hard and it’s rigorous, but it’s also very rewarding. Being a student is not easy, but when you make it through the challenges, you see the light. I saw the light.”



First-generation students are not the only ones who struggle to pay for college.


Olivia Ferdig is a legacy student, whose mother attended UCM. Olivia didn’t start out her college career at UCM. After pursuing a degree at another college, she began to struggle financially. Her mother found out about a UCM transfer scholarship that would allow her to continue her education. “At my old school, where I transferred from, I couldn’t afford it without an athletic scholarship and I lost that scholarship when I made the decision to focus on academics” Ferdig explained. “So coming here and receiving the transfer scholarship made my final decision.”


Ferdig said she feels that the support from the Alumni Foundation has aided her in both her success in college and in her future plans. She is studying to be a physical therapist and has high hopes of attending a prestigious graduate program. She knows graduate school will be expensive and is aware she needs all the help she can get now towards completing her undergraduate program of study.


“I just wanted to say thank you to the alumni who donated,” Ferdig said. “Because that made it possible for me to continue my education.”



Another student who has experienced the positive impact of alumni generosity is Farhan Din, a Biology major. He plans to attend law school to be able to practice environmental law, and has received multiple scholarships from the Alumni Foundation.


“I really appreciate the generous support that the alumni have extended,” Din said. “Without these scholarships it wouldn’t be possible for me to even think of going into a professional degree.”


He said he knows he is just one of many who have been able to get closer to the degree finish line because of the generosity of UCM’s alumni.


“I think there are so many students who are affected by their generosity,” Din said. “They might not know them by name or face but they are out there and they appreciate the help that the alumni and other donors have given to the university. The impact is amazing. For a lot of students it’s getting their degree, for others it’s study abroad or other research.”


In addition to the financial help he’s received from the Alumni Foundation, Din said he feels his involvement through the Alumni Foundation, with programs like Phonathon, has helped him develop more as an individual.


“I would like to express my gratitude and thanks,” he said. “You are helping and changing lives in a positive way. You are helping to build a better future.”


Building that better future and helping students graduate with meaningful degrees is a key goal for both UCM and the Alumni Foundation. The generosity of alumni giving to the Fund for Student Success helps students like Sergio, Olivia and Farhan achieve their educational dreams.


Click here for more information on supporting students through the Fund for Student Success.



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