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Raquel Oliva CLASS
Helping Others on Her Way to Graduation: Idaho Falls Student Gives Back
As a first-generation college student, Raquel Oliva started off her college career a little unsure of herself. Now, as she approaches graduation at the Idaho Falls campus of the University of Idaho, she is making great strides to help and encourage others who may not be thinking of going to college.
“When I first started school, I was really unsure of the whole process and I didn’t realize there were resources out there to help me,” says Oliva. “As I got further into university life and received more help, I saw that I could make a difference in other students’ lives – I could be a role model."
From the small town of Firth, Idaho and the first in her family to graduate college, Oliva is trying to reach out to students in low income and/or minority groups who are not on the college-bound track.
“She has done really well here,” says Debbie Caudle, University of Idaho Idaho Falls undergraduate academic adviser. “She helps the underdog, she always has a smile on her face and she is determined; she is an inspiration to other students.
In between her studies and work at a sister institution – Idaho State University Idaho Falls – Oliva has found time to work with a variety of middle schoolers for the “Celebrate Your Future” event geared toward minority students, she interns with the TRiO program at Idaho Falls and Emerson high schools, works with eighth graders at Rocky Mountain Middle School and is involved in the Idaho Virtual Academy.
“It can be a lot of work, but when I see the kids get excited about learning, it’s worth it,” says Oliva. “I really want to encourage these students to succeed, to think about college as an option.”
Oliva had not thought much about college in high school, nor was encouraged to, and was working in a potato plant and fast food restaurant with no real thought or preparation for college after high school graduation.
“I knew this couldn’t be it, I knew I could do more,” says Oliva, adding school has been a challenge at times. “As I got further in my studies, I felt that I couldn’t quit. I needed something to show for all my hard work and time.”
With her internship, her volunteer efforts, school work and job, Oliva says going to a university so close to home has been a great experience, where she can stay close to her tight-knit family.
“I’m a small town girl, and I love being on a smaller campus where everyone knows everyone,” says Oliva. “I’m really attached to my family so being close to them is a real benefit.”
She adds the flexibility of taking smaller, on campus classes mixed with online classes was very beneficial to her learning style, adding it takes a lot of self-discipline.
While it has taken Oliva eight years to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology, she is planning to take a year off before pursuing a master’s degree, which will help her become either a school counselor or work with TRiO at the university level.
“She’s a very confident, capable young woman,” says Caudle. “She will go on to do amazing things with her life, and the lives of those whom she inspires.”