Group of first-generation students graduating from Fresno State give credit to one professor

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The spring semester is coming to close at Fresno State and that means graduation is around the corner for many.

A group of four first-generation college students will turn their tassel next week and are giving credit to one professor.

Each one took a course with Dr. Juliet Wahleithner.

"While I was teaching the course I thought that I really want to know what happens to these students? How does this program support them as they continue through their time at Fresno State?" she said.

Dr. Wahleithner handed a survey to her students, each one in the "First Year Experience Program," and that feedback from one hundred students turned into a mentoring program with 13 of them.

Four are graduating this semester.

"She always pushed me and told me you have to believe in yourself. You are not as bad as you think you are, you are only having negative thoughts about yourself. That was always a conversation that would come up," said Alma Perez, Fresno State Student.

They would each meet with Dr. Wahleithner three times a year to discuss their academics.

Perez and classmate Andrea Gutierrez will be the first in their families to graduate from college.

And both say Dr. Wahleithner gave them the motivation to finish their studies.

"Checking up on us and just to see how we were doing. I always wanted to continue to try even when I felt like giving up," said Gutierrez.

Wahleithner's students are all majoring in Liberal Arts and plan to pursue teaching.

She hopes each one can mentor students just like she has for the past four years.

"They both have these dream of becoming teachers and serving their community and being the support people. They each have people who have supported them and helped them along the way," said Dr. Juliet Wahleithner.

Graduations take place next week at Fresno State.
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