A graphic celebrating First Generation College Student Day, including images of four Scholars

By: Christina Dunigan & Tasha McKinney


November 8th is National-First Generation College Student Day. The Charles Butt Scholarship celebrates the scholarship recipients who identify as first-generation college students today, and every day! 

Forty-six percent of Charles Butt Scholarship recipients are first-generation college students, meaning 46% of Scholars are the first in their families to have the opportunity to complete a Bachelor’s degree. These are bright and passionate students who are determined to achieve college success and upward mobility not just for themselves, but for their entire family. The United States Census Bureau reports only 30.7% of Texans age 25 or older have a Bachelor’s degree. First-generation Scholars have life experiences that mirror those of many of their future students. The lived experience, empathy, and dedication of these future teachers are tremendous assets they will bring to the classroom and model for their future students. 

Supporting First-Generation Student Success

According to a 2018 landscape analysis from the Center for First-Generation Success, first-generation students make up a third of all college students in the US, but only 27% will attain their degree within four years. Students who are the first in their family to attend college often face academic, cultural, and financial barriers on their path to graduation.

We work to remove some of these barriers by offering wrap-around support services to the Charles Butt Scholars. This includes pairing them with an experienced educator as a mentor, providing ongoing professional development, and connecting them with other Scholars across the state. In addition, we support Scholars to navigate unfamiliar college systems and connect with resources at their universities and in their communities through a program called Scholar Support Services. At the Charles Butt Foundation, we want all Charles Butt Scholars to graduate happy, healthy, feeling fulfilled, and well-prepared to begin their teaching career. To access this additional support, current Scholars can reach out to [email protected].

Advice from Scholar Alumni

Each year the Charles Butt Scholarship team brings together current and former scholarship recipients to learn and connect with one another at the Scholar Symposium. At the 2022 event, we moderated a panel of first-generation former scholarship recipients. These Scholar Alumni, who are now proud Texas teachers, shared their experiences navigating higher education, overcoming barriers, and remembering their purpose when times were difficult. 

To recognize National-First Generation College Student Celebration Day, we’re sharing the poignant advice given by our panelists Bernadette Sifuentes, Celester Horton, Juan Camacho, and Mariela Rosales. In hearing directly from these leaders, we hope you will see, as we do, the resilience and strength they bring to everything they do. Today we celebrate the success of the first-generation current and former Charles Butt Scholarship recipients. We encourage all of the first-generation Scholars to seek support, should they need it, and to celebrate themselves for all they’ve accomplished.

Click on the audio players below to hear each panelist’s thoughtful advice. 

Always remember ‘why.’ Why do you get up every morning? What’s your purpose? I think for me being a first-generation, one thing that really sticks with me is my nieces … how powerful that they see themselves going to college because they have their aunt that did it. I wish I would have had that when I was little.”

Bernadette Sifuentes, Kindergarten Bilingual Teacher, Fort Worth ISD

I just had to sit myself down, focus on me. I’m not racing against someone else. I’m taking it at my own pace, my own time. Sure, it took me four or five years to graduate from college, but hey, I did it! I did it and I’m very, very proud of myself.”

Celester Horton, 1st Grade Teacher, Fort Bend ISD

You’re going to go through moments where you feel like you just got punched in the gut. You will. There’s no denying it, but we’re all going to get punched in the gut. What’s going to make the difference is what you do after that.

Juan camacho, 8th Grade Math Teacher, Duncanville ISD

I’m the oldest of three siblings. I felt a lot of pressure to set an example for them and to go to college. I would say the best advice is don’t compare yourself to others because, for me, that was hard … It’s good to have high standards and push yourself, but I feel comparing yourself to others sometimes can be a lot of pressure.

Mariela Rosales, 1st Grade Bilingual Teacher, Fort Worth ISD

Application Open

Applications are currently open for the Charles Butt Scholarship for Aspiring Teachers!