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Student Profiles

First-Generation Students Pave Paths to Success

Alexander Anderson, Paola Figueroa, and Jairo Montelongo are all thriving at OU both in and out of the classroom, securing prestigious internships, making an impact through student organizations, and more. Keep reading to learn about these first-generation students' stories. 

Alexander Anderson

OU Class of 2021 | Finance & Accounting | Lawton, Oklahoma

Alexander Anderson

With both of Alexander Anderson’s parents being first-generation immigrants to the United States, his mom being born in Mexico and his dad in South Korea, financial stability has always been a hardship on his family. Luckily, Anderson said he has been blessed enough to be able to attend OU and work toward a successful career to support himself and his loved ones. Navigating through college has been tough for Anderson, and he has had to work to pay off his tuition and college expenses as well as take out loans to make ends meet. However, through hard work and guidance from friends across various campus organizations, Anderson has been able to maintain a 4.0 GPA and have an amazing time at OU. His success in terms of academics has allowed him to receive many scholarships and also secure an internship with Northrop Grumman. Anderson said he had an amazing experience interning with Northrop Grumman and was able to grow professionally and as an individual, learning awesome information about the business management side of the aerospace industry. Anderson will be returning to Northrop in the summer of 2021 for a full-time position and will be working toward an ultra-successful career. Anderson would like to attribute his success to his family, friends, mentors, and campus organizations that have influenced him such as: The multicultural business program, Sigma Lambda Beta, Delta Sigma Pi, and The OU Real Estate Club.

Paola Figueroa 

OU Class of 2022 | Community Health, Pre-Physician Associate | Calvillo, Aguascalientes, Mexico

Paola Figueroa

Born in Calvillo, Aguascalientes, Mexico, Paola Figueroa came to the United States when she was six months old with her older siblings and parents. The sacrifices Figueroa’s parents took to ensure that her future was a brighter one and filled with more possibilities than the ones they had has always inspired her to pursue her dreams. 

When thinking about pursuing higher education, Figueroa said she had to overcome the barrier she faced by not being a U.S. Citizen. During Figueroa’s senior year after countless study nights, she was able to take and pass the citizenship exam, one that gave her a certificate that had stated she finally had a status she had always thought of herself as having. After this hurdle had been overcome, Figueroa took on the next challenge of applying and attending a university as a first-generation student. The transition was not an easy one, since she was paving a road for herself, but there have been many individuals along the way who have been consistent in supporting Figueroa and helping her stay on track to reach her goals.

Figueroa has been able to find supportive communities that have poured into her growth in all realms of campus. This includes Latinos Without Borders, an organization that helped her think of college as a tangible dream she could reach as a high school student, and in programs like the Ronald E. McNair Scholars program that has been continuously helping Figueroa develop skills that she can use to prepare and succeed after graduation. Additionally, Figueroa makes sure she is being a familiar face, a helping hand, or a person there to answer any questions to high school students who were once in her shoes through positions such as tour guide and a Diversity Enrichment Programs intern.

Jairo Montelongo

OU Class of 2022 | English | Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Jairo Montelongo

Jairo Montelongo is an ambitious and energetic individual, and his primary goal is to make others smile and to help others.

The Oklahoma City native chose English as his decided major in hopes of being certified to teach after he graduates. He also aims to acquire his master's in educational administration to one day fulfill his dreams of becoming a principal back in his hometown. Montelongo believes when each one can teach one, everyone can come together.

The third-year student has also been connected with programs like OU Spirit where he has been able to perform as the university mascot and compete for a national championship through the Universal Cheerleaders Association, gain valuable teamwork skills and tools, and work hands-on with marketing departments. Montelongo also adds, “it has provided a potential career with professional and semi-pro teams around the nation.” No matter the career path Montelongo pursues, he believes OU has forged a successful path after he graduates.