Kutztown University

Nessa Cartagena (2018)

My First Generation Story

It’s Feb. 24, 2000. My mom was just 20 years old when she had me. Only two years prior, she had graduated high school and went on to continue her education at Northampton Community College. Little did she know, she would meet my dad and get pregnant with me at the age of 19. My mother was always very bright and a straight-A student in school. When she got pregnant with me, her entire life changed. She dropped out of college and began working two fulltime jobs. She worked her entire pregnancy to save up and make sure she would be able to support me.

Throughout the course of my life, education has always been something my mother instilled in me to prioritize. When my mom was 12 years old, she lost her mother in a car crash and was raised by her dad. Aside from not having the moral support of her mother as a teen, that didn't stop her from being the best mother possible to me. As a kid in elementary school, I remember her always helping me make flashcards to study, sitting with me while I did my homework packet, and quizzing me on my spelling words every week. Eighteen years later, and despite the financial struggles we face as a family, she always finds a way to make ends meet. Not only am I pursuing a higher education for my own benefit, but I want to make my mom proud.

I was encouraged to apply to Kutztown because I was Latina, and originally applied to Kutztown as a “safety” school. I thought that I wouldn’t want to come here because it was so close to home, but I quickly reconsidered when I received news that I was the top candidate for the Enlightened Leaders Scholarship on behalf of Kutztown University. This scholarship is awarded to one student every four years who has exemplified academic excellence and community service involvement and plans to major in business. This scholarship covers tuition, fees and other incidentals such as books. My mom could barely afford to send me to college. As a first generation college student, this was a huge deal to my family and me. The staff at Kutztown made me feel welcomed before I even stepped foot on campus, making my decision to attend Kutztown very easy for me.

About the Student

Nessa Cartagena Resized

I am from Bethlehem, Pa., and a Liberty High School Alum. I am a freshman here at Kutztown with the class of 2022. I am involved in many different clubs and organizations on campus, such as the Student Alliance for Latino Success and Achievement, Hall Council, Food Advisory Board, an Admissions Tour Guide, Women Achieving the Vision of Excellence, Financial Planning Club, and a volunteer with the Boys and Girls Club of Reading.

Student Stats

Name: Nessa Cartagena (2018)
Age: 18
Year in School: Freshman
Major: Finance
Favorite Course: Macroeconomics
Dream Job: Personal Financial Advisor

About the School

img-Nessa Cartagena Kutztown University _Logo.jpg

Kutztown University's mission is to provide a high quality education at the undergraduate and graduate levels in order to prepare students to meet lifelong intellectual, ethical, social and career challenges.



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