First-Generation Student Spotlight

First-Generation Students are important.

FGS Spotlight

Portrait of FGS Spotlight Melissa Rubio

Melissa Rubio


Major: Communication, Public Relations

Quote: "Use every encounter as an opportunity to learn something new and grow.."

Melissa was born in Guatemala, raised in Miami, FL and is half Cuban from her father's side. She is the seventh oldest out of ten children and is the third sibling in the family to be graduating from college with a Bachelor's degree. She started her academic career at Utah Valley University in 2013, in which she focused her areas of interest in networking with others, building strong interpersonal relationships and getting involved with programs like I Am First to support her academic goals. Melissa endeavors to be a PR spokesperson for corporate business or firm where she can put to practice her advanced marketing and social media skills. In addition, she would like to be involved in a nonprofit that primarily raises awareness for human trafficking and domestic violence.

FGS Spotlight

Portrait of FGS Spotlight Isrrael Rueda

Isrrael Rueda


Major: Aviation Science, Commercial Piloting

Quote: "Our past experiences make us who we are today. But we’ve been given the power to choose who we’ll become tomorrow."

Isrrael was born and raised in Keizer, Oregon. He belongs to a family of two parents, an older brother, and a younger sister. He is the first in his family to attend a university and pursue a degree. After completing a church mission in West Virginia, Isrrael returned home to finish his Associate of Science degree. In January, he transferred to Utah Valley University and entered the school’s Aviation program. Upon receiving his bachelor’s degree in Aviation Science and obtaining his commercial pilot’s license, Isrrael aspires to fly commercially for UPS freight. Through diligence, hard work, and support from I Am First, Isrrael hopes to make a positive impact in the aviation industry as a proud alumnus of Utah Valley University.

FGS Spotlight

Portrait of FGS Spotlight Kim Neri

Kim Neri


Major: English, Creative Writing

Quote: "Attending Utah Valley University was the best decision I’ve made so far."

Kim was born and raised in Southern California, but moved to Provo, Utah about 7 years ago because of family. She is the first in her family to attend a university which was a lot of pressure on its own. Not only is she the first in her immediate family, but also the first out of all her uncles, aunts, cousins and grandparents; talk about high expectations. She is hoping to receive a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Her goal is to find a job in the newspaper business writing about things that can make a difference and inspire other people. She is passionate about her family, friends, music, literature, and art. Kim would also love to travel extensively in her future.

FGS Spotlight

Portrait of FGS Spotlight Kailee Tapia

Kailee Tapia

("Kai" rhymes with "Sky"), Freshman

Major: Digital Cinema

Quote: "Good leaders work to inspire themsleves. Great leaders work to inspire others."

Kailee was born in Sandy, UT, but moved to Tremonton, UT when she was 8. She graduated from Bear River High School, where she was on Student Government her junior and senior year. She is the 3rd oldest of 6 children, and she and her twin sister are the first of their siblings to go to college. This is her first year at Utah Valley University, and she plans to attend all 4 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree in digital cinema, which will help her get closer to her goal of becoming a film director. Kailee joined I Am First to grow more as a leader and show other students that they can succeed in higher education. Kailee would like to continue learning more about being a leader and helping others achieve their goals. She wants to be an example for her siblings and other first-gen students and show them that they can accomplish anything as long as they work hard and give it everything they've got.

FGS Spotlight

Portrait of FGS Spotlight Crystal Sedano

Crystal Sedano


Major: Elementary Education


Crystal was born in beautiful Cache Valley, Utah and raised in New Mexico. She was raised by her single mother and is the second oldest of five children. Her oldest brother (who also attends UVU) inspired Crystal to attend UVU after he gave her tour around campus. Crystal is majoring in Elementary Education and plans to teach in Utah after graduating with her bachelor’s degree. Having joined the I Am First program in 2017, Crystal has learned great leadership skills through her mentors. Her college experience has been incredible thanks to the amazing support UVU has offered. She is excited to start teaching and will incorporate all her skills she has learned in her future classroom.

FGS Spotlight

Portrait of FGS Spotlight Ivette Pimentel

Ivette Pimentel


Major: Pre-Nursing


I was born here in Utah and moved around a lot as a child. I graduated from Herriman High. My family is originally from Mexico. My first language is Spanish and I remember having to learn English in kindergarten and having to teach my younger siblings to speak English.

I'm the oldest of four kids and I am the first person in my entire family to attend college. In high school I was in the Latinos in Action class and I remember coming to UVU for a conference and just loving it. I knew I wanted to come to UVU because it just felt right and I felt so welcomed. The reason I wanted to change my major to Pre-Nursing is because in high school I did a internship with South Jordan Fire and I realized that I didn't want to be a Firefighter/Paramedic because I loved what the Nurses were doing. I want to be able to help people with anything they need and be a resource that they can turn to, I want to work in a hospital with patients and maybe one day become a doctor.