SUNY Oneonta

Sha-Niyah Ortiz (2018)

My First Generation Story

College was always a goal of mine. I’ve wanted to go to college ever since I was young, but I wasn’t sure about my future.

There’s a stigma from where I’m from, in the poorer neighborhoods. After high school graduation, I would be more likely asked where I found a job than what college I was attending. I wanted more for myself. I wanted certain things in life—a car, a house—and working a job out of high school wasn’t going to pay for all that. I knew I needed an education that went beyond high school.

My mom never went to college, and my dad never graduated high school. Parents always want their children to do better, and my parents weren’t any different. The hurdle for me was going to be financing my education.

That’s why I feel blessed that I was selected as an Equal Opportunity student at SUNY Oneonta. The program has made my college dream a reality. I am able to be part of a family of students who face similar struggles. Whether it’s financial hardship or hurdles in interpersonal relationships, I have counselors who help me succeed. That may be the reason why becoming a counselor is so near to my heart.

SUNY Oneonta has taught me how to be a professional and I’ve grown so much here. I used to think that only the wealthy had long resumes. I’m adding to mine with all the great opportunities that are available to me on campus. I’m part of Divine Leaders, our black student union, and the step team. I’m also an executive board member of the Psychology Club, a student dialogue leader for the campus’s conversation on diversity, and a senator for the Student Association. I’m also thrilled to work at a local elementary school, mentoring an at-risk third grader.

I feel so strongly about helping others find the right path. You need to focus on yourself first before you can be successful in any other aspect of your life. I know that philosophy is what drives me to become a counselor. I have plans to enter grad school and further my studies in counseling, whether it be at a high school or college or in the mental health field. Hopefully in the future, I can help people in ways that I’ve been helped.

About the Student

Sha-Niyah Ortiz

Sha-Niyah Ortiz is a junior currently studying Sociology at State University of New York at Oneonta (SUNY Oneonta). As a first generation student, she is grateful for the opportunity to study at a college that is supportive of her needs. Sha-Niyah has grown well beyond her old neighborhood, where her peers only aspired to secure a job after graduating high school. Now she aspires to become a counselor to guide others to find the right path.

Student Stats

Name: Sha-Niyah Ortiz (2018)
Age: 21
Year in School: Junior
Major: Sociology
Favorite Course: Children in Crisis
Dream Job: Counselor/therapist

About the School

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The SUNY College at Oneonta unites excellence in teaching, scholarship, civic engagement and stewardship to create a student-centered learning community.



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