FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Camerina Morales is set to graduate with a Master's in Higher Education this weekend from Fresno State.
But for the Orange Cove native, the journey in higher education wasn't so easy as a first-generation college student.
Morales gives credit to a high school program for putting her on the path to college.
"I feel like it was very selective kind of who was talked to about higher education or who was pushed into that route," she said.
Morales was accepted to U.C. Merced with a full scholarship.
But in her first year, she struggled academically and lost her financial assistance.
She said she didn't know who or where to get help while at college.
Morales did graduate with a bachelor's degree in sociology and paid for school through student loans and part-time work.
She was then accepted to Fresno State's graduate program, determined to help minority students with similar experiences.
"All of these students have similar experiences. How can I support them? And I don't think it was until the end of the first year in my master's program that I really realized about the population that I wanted to focus on," said Morales.
Dr. Susana Hernandez noticed Morales passion to help others and mentored her over the past few years.
"I think that she is a great ambassador of our program, of her family and of other first-generation students like her. I think she represents and a lot of students can relate to her experience," said Dr. Hernandez.
Morales is one of nine students honored as a Graduate Dean's Medalist at Fresno State.
She hopes to work as a counselor after graduation and help students going through the same struggles she had as a student.
"So any position that I go into even if that is not the focus I would still be able to bring in that social justice line and bring in that focus on those students," said Morales.
Fresno State grad student determined to help first generation college students