Graduation at Edgewood College
First Generation Success
Ana Jimenez-Díaz is graduating with a degree in
chemistry with a biochemistry concentration and has
been the student body president of Edgewood College for
the past year.
see other Latinos or other people of color there. I was in AVID/TOPS and most of that was made out of people of color. I really did feel that support.”

When she left high school, Jimenez-Díaz chose to come to Edgewood College because it would fit her learning style better.

“I joke with my friends a lot saying, ‘I’m really glad we came to Edgewood and not to UW-Madison’ just because it’s a small campus,” Jimenez-Díaz said with a
chuckle. “Your professors really get to know you. I know that sounds so cliché, but it is so true. I have had a lot of things that have happened in my life. Professors
Part 1 of 2

By Jonathan Gramling

It is probably safe to say that without the UW PEOPLE Program, Anna Jimenez-Díaz would not be
graduating from Edgewood College today with a degree in chemistry. While she was very bright and
talented, Jimenez-Díaz is a first-generation student who did not have the basic ingredients in place that
would facilitate and propel her academic career. PEOPLE gave Ana the friendships, support and
exposure she needed to grow and succeed.

“I had a lot of support in high school from a lot of teachers and friends who were on the same track as
me,” Jimenez-Díaz said. “That really helped me to keep pushing to go to college. I don’t have many
family members who have been to college. I’m a first-generation college student. It would have been
very easy for me to say. ‘This is not something I want to do. No one I know has done this. I don’t care.’
There wouldn’t have been anyone in my family to push me. Luckily I had that support and I kept on
going and now, here I am. And I am so grateful for all of those people who I had in my life and
supported me and told me to keep on going. I don’t think I would have done the achievements that I
have had up to this point without them.”

And the high school environment and the “shelter” of the PEOPLE Program allowed her to not feel
isolated as a Latina trying to better her position in life.

“When I was in middle and high school, I had that support system or I saw people like me as well,”
Jimenez-Díaz said. “Even being at West where a lot of white people are there still, I was still able to
notice when you’re not there versus a big lecture hall at UW-Madison. When you
go to office hours, they notice when something is off. I am very happy that I came
here because if I would have had to endure what I had to during these past four
years at UW-Madison, I don’t think I would have had the same experience. I don’t
think I would have had as much support as I have had here.”

College definitely was not for me. I tried.’”

But even though it was smaller, that doesn’t mean that Jimenez-Diaz didn’t face
the same isolation that college students of color can face on a predominantly
white campus.

“Coming here, when you are in a class, sometimes you don’t see a person of
color all day,” Jimenez-Díaz said. “Or you don’t see someone you can relate to.
Some of my white professors — I know they mean well — don’t understand what
that is like. And sometimes you just don’t talk about it with them. It got to the
point where I just made my way into a study group. I had to. I had friends who
were like, ‘Oh, we’re going to study together.’ But they wouldn’t necessarily ask
me. I would have to ask, ‘Oh you guys are studying? What time are you guys
studying. Maybe I will come.’ I really had to learn to advocate for myself when I
came here. I had to do it in high school, but not as much because I had those
teachers who really noticed. ‘Oh, you’re not doing well.’ My AVID teacher was
especially like that. ‘You’re not doing well. Let’s go talk to this teacher. Let’s do
what we can to help you.’ But I really had to learn to do that on my own once I
came here.”

And so the students of color, especially in the sciences where they were few
and far between, would have to network to survive and succeed.

“Being the only student of color in science class is super hard, to be able to
actually visualize yourself succeeding in those classes, especially when you
feel that you are the only one not being asked to study together or form study
groups,” Jimenez-Díaz said. “It’s those little things. And I talked to other students
of color who are in science classes as well. ‘Do you get that reaction?’ They are
like, ‘Yes, I know what you mean. The few people of color who are in science
classes, we try to keep together to make sure that we keep pushing each other
because it is definitely not easy. I probably can count how many times I wanted
to just quit. ‘This is it.

Next issue: Being student body president