A First-Generation Student

Jason Chapman, Staff Writer

Pursuing a degree of any kind is no easy task. If you’re a first-generation college student, it takes even more of a resilient nature than the secondary school graduate that was groomed for college from the start. Graduating with a college degree is solely up to the person that is looking to further their own education and hopefully use that newfound knowledge to gain access to a better path of life that most are never able to attain.

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A headshot of Demetrius Hurst. Photo from georgiasouthern.edu.

Demetrius Hurst, a Biology Major here at Georgia Southern, is a first-generation student. Hurst was wearing a dark blue suit, had a firm handshake and stood up straight. When we sat down to discuss his journey as a first-generation college student, he never lost eye contact and spoke with an eloquence that too few people are able to attain. 

He’s not the first in his family to attend college but Demetrius is about to be the first to graduate with a degree. Coming from the rural town of Waycross, Ga, Hurst went to Ware County High School.

 “There’s not too many people who go to college because we have one high school. So, the [few] people that are going to college we [all] pretty much know who they are. It’s very important that the younger generation sees me overcoming odds and being a first-generation college student,” said Hurst.

After this fall semester ends, Hurst will have one semester left before he is able to walk across the stage and receive his degree. When he’s finished with school at GSU, Hurst plans to attend medical school at Morehead State University. Hurst said, “My aspiration is to become a doctor.”

Hurst’s younger sister has followed in his footsteps and has just gotten into college at Middle Georgia State. When he’s in Waycross, sometimes people in his community will ask him questions about college. 

“Sometimes they ask me questions about college, and [so] I tell them. And, they’re like, ‘Oh. I’m thinking about joining the military’ or ‘thinking about just getting a job.’ And, I’m like, ‘you know you got to have a plan [for the future]. I can help you with that,’” he said.

There were a lot of things Hurst had to figure out for himself in order to go ahead with his plans to attend college. He also had to surround himself around people that would only help him achieve his goals. “Who you choose to put your time and stuff towards, that is basically how you’ll be represented,” said Hurst.

By making friends with people who were expected to go to college, he changed his environment for the better. Hurst also had to go out and find people that could tell him how to succeed at the college level and prepare himself for what was to come. The person who inspired Hurst to become a doctor was a physician at his church. 

“She was the very first black physician that I’ve seen in my life. And, I was 14 years old when I saw that, so just seeing her–I was like, ‘I don’t know what I want but I want what you have.’ It was that type of thing. I like medicine. I started doing stuff with medicine and then shadowing and things like that and I actually like it,” Hurst said. 

Another thing that really helped Hurst get through college was TRIO. TRIO is an academic support service for students at Georgia Southern. It provides advising, tutoring, mentoring and informational workshops. 

“The workshops there helped me so much. They shot me the internships, how to network, how to eat, how to dress. This stuff didn’t happen overnight, it didn’t at all. It was all of the organizations that I chose to join”, Hurst said.

Getting involved on campus is a great way to come out of your shell. Hurst reveals he used to be fairly shy and while talking to him at this point, that’s a version of him that’s tough to imagine. Hurst also said, “The relationships I’ve had on campus were my biggest help. Friends and [there are] some really good professors here too.”

Hurst spoke with Inkwell staff about his experience in honor of Operation First-Generation Week last week that was from Nov. 4-8. For more information on TRIO support services and how to find help as a first-generation student, please contact TRIO Student Support Services in Solms Hall, Room 212 via phone at (912) 344-3023 or email at trio@georgiasouthern.edu.