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SCC Highlights First-Generation College Students


“To be a first-generation college student is to be adventurous,” states Melanie Munoz-Lorenzo, “It’s to be willing to take a big step without having any knowledge of what the world ahead has in store for you.”

The Business Administration major is currently in her second year at Surry Community College. An East Bend native, Munoz-Lorenzo is the daughter of Martha and Filemon Munoz-Lorenzo originally from Maravatio, Mexico. Munoz-Lorenzo spends her free time reading, cooking with her mother, and volunteering at her local church interpreting the English lectures into Spanish for students, while still making time to work in the Academic Support Center on Surry Community College’s Dobson campus.

Munoz-Lorenzo has said that she has enjoyed and valued her time at Surry Community College, especially her time spent in Instructor Marsha Underwood’s Entrepreneurship I class, “I just love how she interacts with her students.”

Munoz-Lorenzo has stated that while being a first-generation college student presents a rewarding experience, it also presents unique challenges.

“The academic system can be overwhelming and complicated. You don’t know how to apply for college, fill out FAFSA, or anything else. It can be very discouraging. If I don’t know how to apply, why should I even go?” said Munoz-Lorenzo.

Munoz-Lorenzo has said that she has felt like an outsider since she was a kid, “I was treated differently. Maybe it was the color of my skin, or maybe it was because I couldn’t understand their language, but I decided that I would not let it affect my education.”

The Surry Community College Fall 2022 Dean’s List recipient kept true to that statement, “I know I’m making my parents proud. I’m doing what they always hoped but could never do themselves.”

When asked what she considers her greatest success, Munoz-Lorenzo did not name any academic honors or personal projects. Instead, she stated that, “my greatest success will be seeing my parents look on and smile as I graduate with honors.”

Munoz-Lorenzo wants to emphasize to other first-generation college students that, “you’re not where you are because of luck, or because your name got switched in the admissions office. You are where you deserve to be, where you earned to be. You have your position now because you were persistent. When everyone else took one step, you took five.”

Nisa McFowler, another first-generation college student at Surry Community College describes what being a first in her family means to her, “Being a first-generation student requires determination and an independent spirit. You have to make your own path, without guidance.”

McFowler has just completed her final semester to gain an Associate in Applied Science in Office Administration. The Norfolk, Va., native is the daughter of Mary and Ismael Ruiz. She currently lives in Mount Airy, and she spends her free time with her children, listening to Christian music, and playing basketball. McFowler has also been working in both part-time and full-time positions while being enrolled in school.

This is McFowler’s second program that she will complete with Surry Community College, as she graduated with an Office Administration diploma in May of 2022. McFowler has remained an active student as a member of the National Society of Leadership and Success. Her favorite class so far at Surry Community College has been Interpersonal Psychology “I loved PSY-118. I learned a lot about myself, family, and behaviors that intrigued me,” she said.

While the President’s List recipient is dedicated to her studies now, she has confessed that this was not always true. “My dad always emphasized to me and my sisters how important it was for us to be serious about getting an education, but I never took the initiative with school or cared about my grades. As long as I had good enough grades to play basketball, I really couldn’t care less. I could have been a straight-A student, if I had chosen to study and work hard.”

McFowler continued with, “Unfortunately, it became a life lesson for me, but as a mother, I make sure to keep my children on a path of guidance and structure. I do so to ensure that they do not have the same problems I did growing up.”

In regards to the accessibility of higher education, McFowler said, “Higher education is accessible for my peers and me. There are ways to go about obtaining higher education. I had to pursue it on my own, but it was still very possible.”

She also has stated that, “My greatest success is being a mom of three children while earning my associate degree, as well as working full-time at Central States Manufacturing. It was a challenge, but I was determined to be something in life and give myself a stable starting point.”

McFowler concluded with, “I have overcome many challenges in my life, and I am more determined than ever to work hard because of my children. I want to give them the guidance and wisdom I’ve gained from my own experiences, so they can have bright, successful futures.”

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