Meet six first generation college students and graduates
<p>My name is Ineliz Soto-Fuller, and I serve as the director of Admissions at Seattle Pacific University. I am also a first-generation college graduate.</p>

Going to college absolutely changed my life. It also inspired my sister to apply to college, and she graduated from Seattle Pacific in 2016. This type of decision not only changes your life, but it can also have impact on your family, your community, and beyond. This is why I work in the field that I do and I am so passionate about first-generation college students experiencing Seattle Pacific.

We created these videos to introduce you to SPU students, alumni, and faculty who are also first generation. I believe one of the most powerful ways you can achieve the dream of a college degree is to see how people like you, with a similar story or background, made it through. These stories are filled with hope, hard work, passion, success, and living out the dream parents were unable to achieve for themselves.

This year at Seattle Pacific, our incoming class was 41 percent first-generation college students. We celebrate them and their stories. We know the impact SPU will have on these students, but we also know the meaningful impact they will have on SPU.

I pray these stories inspire you wherever you are on your college journey!

Veronica Beltran

Class of 2021

“Being here definitely reminds me that, no matter how hard it gets, you can keep going.”


Brian Bantum, PhD

Associate Professor of Theology

Class of 1997

“College is like a language — in a lot of ways. Unfortunately, a lot of us were never given access to that language — whether it’s how you read a syllabus or the kind of unstated expectations about what an assignment is or isn’t. Or even just the fact that you can actually go ask for help. Not knowing something is actually why you’re here — to learn. Professors want to see you and want to walk with you.“


Sandy Zimmermann

Analyst at Starbucks

Class of 2016

“Humans are extremely adaptable. No matter what you’re going through, you’ll usually find a way to make it work.”


Pierce Salave’a

Class of 2020

“I started the Pacific Islanders Club of Cultural Arts, also known as PICCA … because I wanted to be able to bring to SPU the different cultures that are represented throughout the Pacific. … During our PICCA meetings, I teach a lot of things, from singing to songs and dances. We’ll do games. I’ll make them different cultural foods or we’ll do cultural cooking days.”


Ray Sugarman, JD

Attorney and Union Representative

Class of 2011

“What’s been most meaningful to me in my career is that I get to advocate for and represent other individuals, especially people of color.”

Jennifer Long

Human Resources at Boeing

Class of 2013

“My mom and my dad were both refugees from Cambodia. They decided to escape their hometown, and the war at the time, to come to the United States to provide my brothers and I with a better life. … For me to give that back to them, to accomplish their dream to come to the United States, was something I’ll always cherish.”


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