University of Alaska Anchorage

Jennifer Spencer (2016)

My First Generation Story

I am a first-generation student, and the youngest of nine siblings. I am the first in my family to attend college. I am from a low-income household, and have a disability. In my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with dyslexia. Living with dyslexia is not easy and requires additional time studying and taking exams. I do not allow this challenge to take over my ability to learn and achieve good grades. Even with dyslexia I was able to earn my certification as a Certified Nursing Assistant while in high school.

I had no one to emulate or provide much needed advice regarding college or selecting a major. Because I enjoy helping others, I chose to become a nurse in high school. When I got to college I began taking classes towards a bachelor’s degree in nursing. I struggled in the classes, and as I became closer to completing my General Education Requirements and had completed some of my nursing courses, I discovered I was not passionate about nursing. Yet I was still interested in assisting others, providing for their well-being, and caring for my community and state. After a good deal of reflection, visits to the social work department and talking with my advisor, I decided social work would be a rewarding field, as it would allow me to assist others and give back to my community.

College has definitely been a journey for me within my personal life as well. My mother worked very hard to provide the essentials needed for college, but when she lost her job we were unable to afford our rent and we lost our apartment. We were forced to sell all of our belongings. My mother couldn't find a stable job, so she chose to leave Alaska. She recently moved to a shelter because she couldn’t afford anywhere to live. I chose to remain in Alaska to continue my education at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Since my mother left the state, I have been staying with different friends. I have developed a family here with great friends, and have been provided opportunities to helps those who need it. I am a peer mentor to new students, and I help put together events that bring awareness to different groups in my community. For all the hard work I have done, I’ve made connections with others who understand the importance of working hard and studying diligently to earn a college degree.

On January 30, 2016 I received the Martin Luther King student appreciation citation. This is a huge accomplishment for me because it affirms that I am on the right track, and others are paying attention to my hard work, growth and accomplishments. Not having my mother in Alaska for support is difficult. However, faculty at UAA have helped me grow and mature as a person. With TRIO Student Support Services and UAA behind me, I will persist and graduate with a degree in social work.

About the Student

Jennifer Spencer Resized

I was born in Brooklyn, New York. My mother was always working, so my siblings helped raise me. We moved around a lot and lived in shelters when I was younger, but my mother always found a way to stay strong and make those experiences fun for us. My mother always tells me no matter what I am going through in life I should always try and make it as fun as possible. I have always been known as the funny kid in my schools. I enjoy making people laugh, helping others and being involved in my community.

Student Stats

Name: Jennifer Spencer (2016)
Age: 23
Year in School: Junior
Major: Social Work
Favorite Course: Public Speaking
Dream Job: To be a great social worker to help those in need.

About the School

University of Alaska Anchorage

Surrounded by an environment that is both urban and wild, the University of Alaska Anchorage is a gateway to innovative thinking, learning and exploration. UAA is the state’s largest university, situated at the heart of the state's largest city, with satellites in Homer, Kodiak, Soldotna, Valdez and Mat-Su. UAA students experience hands-on education, in and out of the classroom. 



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