Yosan Tsegai photo

Giving matters: support for first-generation college students

Scholarships strengthen access to higher education

Yosan Tsegai grew up spending many hours with her grandmother. “Since my parents were working a lot, my grandma was the most reliable person my siblings and I had,” says Tsegai.

When her grandmother passed away, Tsegai struggled. But she knew that her grandmother wanted her to be the best she could be.

“Even though she didn’t go to school, when I came home from school she would ask me how it went and then would try to read my notes,” Tsegai remembers. “Her presence and hard work were very inspirational to me.”

Tsegai was the first in her family to attend college. As an aspiring pediatric occupational therapist, she realized she wanted to work with children because the first few years of a child’s life are fundamental in building cognitive and sensorimotor skills. It’s an area in which children—particularly those with injuries or disabilities—need augmented support. Tsegai’s goal is to increase their sense of confidence as well as behavioral and academic development.

“This scholarship lightened my financial burden and allowed me to focus on the most important aspect of school—learning.”

—Yosan Tsegai, kinesiology

But just navigating the University is not an easy task, especially for first-generation college students. And the need to work limits opportunities for many like Tsegai.

Thanks to support including the Lee Piechowski and Mayra Oberto-Medina Scholarship, Tsegai has more freedom to experience all the U has to offer. She has been able to pursue her passion for child rehabilitative care without sacrificing her college experience to student debt—able to take on leadership roles, study abroad in India, and work in relevant paid and unpaid positions that provide the necessary tools and experience for her next big step.

The scholarship was established in 2010 with a gift from Lee Piechowski, who started at the University in General College, and Mayra Oberto-Medina. By providing financial assistance to first-generation college students in CEHD, the award strengthens access to higher education and helps students like Tsegai achieve their academic goals as well as personal growth.

Story by Genevieve Benson | Photo by Greg Helgeson | Fall 2019