Wolverine Stories: Jenny Her

As a first-generation student, sometimes it felt like I started so far behind everyone else, but UVU helped me realize I am right at the starting line with everyone else.

Jenny Her

My name is Jenny Her, and I love UVU. I am a first-generation college student. My parents are refugees from Laos and immigrated to the United States during the Vietnam War. I grew up in Sacramento, California. I was there until middle school then completed high school in Minnesota. After graduation, I moved back to Sacramento. My parents managed subsidized housing, so we always grew up living in government housing.

I was the first in my whole family to go to college. It was difficult because my parents did not want me to go out. In my culture, family is very close-knit. You live and stay by family because they are fearful for you to be far away.

Originally, I went to Brigham Young University-Idaho. When I first started going to college, it was hard seeing students living “the college experience.” My parents could not help me move in because of work conflicts. I do not think they understood how important this experience was for me, as someone who wanted to feel like an “American” kid. It saddened me they were unable to come because that experience meant a lot to me. It is not that they were not supportive, they just couldn’t understand because they never went to college. I also did not grow up planning on attending college to know how important a moment like this was. It was hard seeing my roommates move with the help of their parents and see their parents take them to Walmart to stock their side of the fridge and cupboard. Meanwhile, I had a friend drop me off at college and helped me fill my cupboard with hand-me-down tableware from my best friend’s mom. I still own them today.

It was difficult navigating college by myself. I had to figure out by myself how to navigate FAFSA, how to pay for my education, what classes I needed, and where they were located. I couldn’t just attend classes like my peers. I had to figure out how to attend classes on top of supporting myself at the age of 17. It was a hard experience, but I am extremely grateful as I am very self-reliant.

I went to BYU-Idaho for two years, but then I realized all my friends were in the Provo area. I thought since I was already coming to Utah often, I should try going to school here as well. In 2012, I moved to Utah then served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After my mission, I began attending UVU in 2015.

When I started at UVU, I was married and had a baby. Soon after starting my education, I got a divorce that left me to figure out how to continue my education on my own. To my surprise, it was so easy to continue. I was looking online through UVU’s website to see how I could get financial aid, and then I ran across the Women’s Success Center. I have been meeting with them for success coaching sessions twice a semester. They also help operate the Wee Care Center on campus, a center dedicated to providing child care to parent-students. It has been an amazing support in my education. Their rates are super affordable for low-income families. My daughter has been there since she was 6 months old, so she has grown up at the Wee Care Center. 

I was also fortunate to be the Virginia Wade Women’s Success Scholarship recipient — an award that offers full tuition, day care, rent, and a stipend every semester. Being a student, I never had to wonder how I would pay for school or continue going to school because UVU and the Women’s Success Center made it that easy.

I seriously attribute my success and acceptance in the nursing program to the Wee Care Center and the Women’s Success Center. Without them, I do not think that I would have been able to get in. Wee Care was able to watch my daughter and help me get more study time outside of the classroom. With their help, I was able to study hard and do well to get into the nursing program.

I love the nursing program. They have been incredibly supportive and flexible with my daughter. Anytime I have friends that are struggling — especially my single mom friends from other states — I tell them that it is worth it to make the move to come to UVU because of how supportive they really are. Not just with single moms, but women in general. It is affordable, and the teachers know that many of their students are nontraditional students — so they are really understanding.

I am in my last semester of nursing school. I will take my National Council Licensure Examination at the end of December 2021. I have one more semester for my BSN, so I will be done in May 2022. After graduation, I plan to work in the field. I hope that UVU will have a nurse practitioner program by the time that I am done. I am going to take a break after being in school for a while, but I plan to go back to school to get my nurse practitioner degree.

I am grateful for my experience at UVU. They have supported me enough that I do not have to do anything but attend school. I finally feel as though I have a fair chance like my peers. As a first-generation student, sometimes it felt like I started so far behind everyone else, but UVU helped me realize I am right at the starting line with everyone else. I have loved my experience at UVU and am grateful for a school that continues to make changes to be supportive of all types of students that walk through their halls.