“Being a TRIO student has meant a lot to me,” says senior Troy Wildenberg. Like many in the program, he came to CEHD as a first-year student who had not yet declared a major. TRIO’s connection to the college helped him decide to stay.
He took advantage of CEHD’s integrated degree program, choosing to study a combination of youth studies, leadership, and social justice.
Wildenberg later became an orientation leader for incoming freshman and now administratively supports the college’s First Year Experience program. As a part of a CEHD course focused on social change, he spent winter break in South Africa learning how that nation ended apartheid.
Intersections of experience and identity influenced his decision to study youth work and social justice, he says.
“Being first-gen, my experience in South Africa, and my experience in the queer community really drove me in that direction,” he says.
Like many first-generation college students, Wildenberg has struggled with impostor syndrome—the feeling of being a fraud or not deserving of one’s accomplishments. His college community helps him remember that he belongs here, and in his career he wants to give others that type of support.
“I’ve always had powerful mentors in my life who remind me that my experience is valid,” says Wildenberg. “I would love to be able to be that same person to someone else.”
Learn more about the School of Social Work and its programs.
Return to “The first-generation force.”
Story by Ellen Fee | Photo by Erica Loeks | Winter 2018