Tarleton State University

Traivohn Jefferson (2016)

My First Generation Story

I’ve encountered many barriers as a first generation student. My mother attended Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern University but never graduated. The college application process has changed dramatically from the late 1980s when my mother looked into getting a university degree, but she helped me as best she could. I had no idea where I wanted to go or even how to apply for school or financial aid.

Even with odds stacked against me, I received a lot of support from family and people in the community when they heard I planned to attend college. High school teachers helped me apply for schools while my church awarded me a scholarship to help with tuition.

My mother believed in the value of a college education. She pushed me not only to attend a four-year university, but to also graduate. She sent me to all types of camps early in my childhood, from debate to art to football, to make sure I would have a solid foundation to pursue a higher education.

Some pressured me to attend specific schools, but my mother told me to pick the best fit for me. I chose Tarleton State University because I liked the warm, friendly atmosphere. Faculty and staff took a personal interest in me, and the class size was perfect.

However, my struggles were far from over. There was the whole process of learning about and applying for financial aid. I knew nothing about scholarships or loans. Class attendance was a struggle, too. It took me a while to get used to my schedule. I’d show late or early.

Landing a spot in a remedial math class because of low Accuplacer Test scores was no confidence booster for a kid who’d been told he was smart by family and friends. I didn’t know it was OK to ask my professors for assistance.
When I told my mother I was struggling, she asked why I wasn’t taking care of business or asking for help. My pride wouldn’t let me tell her I didn’t know how.

After facing academic suspension, I finally figured out that if I was going to succeed in college, it was up to me. My mom couldn’t help me. She even said, “It’s on you now.” Before, I waited for help to come. Now, I actively sought it, and I found that Tarleton faculty and staff were more than willing to help.

I set up meetings with the dean of Tarleton’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts, Kelli Styron. Together, we came up with strategies to ensure my success. She helped me find programs that would push me to be the person my mother saw when she looked into my eyes.

Thanks to Dean Styron, Tarleton faculty and staff, and programs like MENtal Freedom, along with my mother’s great motivation and love, I will graduate in December and have plans to attend graduate school.

About the Student

Traivohn Jefferson Resized

My name is Traivohn Jefferson. I am a senior at Tarleton State University, graduating in December 2016 with a bachelor’s in speech communication. I am a member of Tarleton’s MENtal Freedom and Multicultural Ambassadors—programs that help students improve their lives and the lives of others by building diverse relationships that promote success—serving on the executive team of both. I have participated in a number of leadership conferences, including the 2014 and 2016 Diversity Leadership Conference at Sam Houston State University and the 2016 Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference at Texas A&M University. For the past three years, I’ve played a vital role in helping organize Tarleton’s own Leaders4Diversity Conference. From Waco, Texas, I currently record, edit and publish my own YouTube vlog, Chillin with Trai, and I volunteer at Tarleton’s radio station, 100.7 The Planet. I dedicate all my success to my mother, Phelecia Jefferson, who passed away in 2013.

Student Stats

Name: Traivohn Jefferson (2016)
Age: 22
Year in School: Senior
Major: Speech Communication
Favorite Course: Audio Production
Dream Job: Radio, Film, Working for a program like Upward Bound

About the School

Tarleton State University

With its main campus in Stephenville, an hour southwest of Fort Worth, Tarleton State University offers the value of a Texas A&M University System degree with its own brand of personal attention, individual opportunities, history, tradition and community. Tarleton is a vibrant learning community with nearly 100 undergraduate and graduate degrees, as well as a doctorate in education, within five colleges.



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