University of Northern Iowa

Darion Watson (2011)

My First Generation Story

As the first person in my family to go to college, I didn’t have anyone to walk me through the college-selection process. But even though I didn’t know the path, I wanted an education, and I took advantage of the opportunities presented to me.

I’m from Gary, Ind., which is about 300 miles from Cedar Falls, Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), where I go to school. My high school guidance counselor told me about UNI and the partnership between my high school and the university to create a more diverse student body. I came to UNI for a visit, toured campus and the community, interviewed for scholarships, and here I am. Four years later, I’m ready to graduate.

My two older brothers and my older sister are even talking about going to college too. Once you make it through, you give others hope. You provide a lens to help others see that a college education is possible.

From a young age, my teachers kept telling me they saw a spark in me. They recognized my educational persistence, my strong work ethic, and they encouraged me to get a college education. “There’s so much out there for you,” they kept saying. My teachers really helped me get to where I am today.

The faculty and staff at UNI have been just as supportive. They saw that eagerness, that spark in me, and they wanted to help ignite it. That’s why I decided to pursue my master’s degree in student affairs at UNI; I want to help ignite that spark in others. I’ll be able to do that beginning this fall when I start my graduate assistantship as an admissions adviser for multicultural recruitment in the Office of Admissions. After receiving my master’s degree, I’ll probably go for my Ph.D. too, since my career goal is to become a dean of students.

UNI was a great choice for me. I’m a resident assistant, a Student Admissions Ambassador and I’m also the founder of the Black Male Leaders Union, which focuses on scholarship, leadership and service. I work on campus as a peer adviser in Career Services, and in April 2011, I was named UNI’s Student Employee of the Year and the state of Iowa’s Student Employee of the Year. I also received the LUX Service Award, which is given to only three undergraduates each year to acknowledge their service to UNI.

My advice for other first-generation college students is to never give up. Keep your first priority, which is getting an education, your top priority. No one can get you a college education but you. I’m so proud to say that I did.

About the Student

Darion Watson

Darion Watson hails from Gary, Ind. He’s a senior organizational communication major with a minor in business communication at the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls, Iowa. After graduating in May 2011, Darion will continue his studies at UNI this fall as he works toward his master’s degree in student affairs. At the same time, he’ll serve as an admissions adviser for multicultural recruitment in the Office of Admissions, working to make the UNI campus more diverse.  

Student Stats

Name: Darion Watson (2011)
Age: 22
Year in School: Senior
Major: Organizational Communication
Favorite Course: Organizational Cultures
Dream Job: Dean of Students

About the School

University of Northern Iowa 2

UNI is a quality, state-supported university of approximately 13,000 students, located on the west side of the Cedar Falls/Waterloo metro area in northeast Iowa.



  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
    (202) 478-4662