Topeka, Kan. – Washburn University will celebrate its “First-generation Family of the Year” 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 3, in the lower level of the Mabee Library, on the Washburn University campus, during the “We Are F1rst” student organization meeting. Washburn University President JuliAnn Mazachek will make comments and introduce the student and her family. Perla Soto, Washburn University senior, and her family will be recognized with this honor.

    Soto expects to graduate in May 2024 with her bachelor’s degree. She is double majoring in Criminal Justice with an area of concentration in forensic investigations and Mass Media, concentrating in film and video. She already earned her Associate of Liberal Studies degree from Washburn University in December 2022.

    “It was fun to be able to walk across the stage, knowing I would be doing it again in the near future,” Soto said of her graduation in 2022.

     Academic accomplishments are something Soto has found enjoyable since elementary school. Originally from Colorado, the Soto family moved to Topeka when she was young. She grew up attending USD 501 schools where she excelled academically. Her teachers and counselors at Highland Park High School encouraged her to pursue college.

     “I wasn’t fond of the idea of moving too far from my family, so I was torn between a few colleges within driving distance from home,” said Soto. “Then I had the opportunity to participate in a summer program at Washburn University and that was it, I knew Washburn was my school.

     “With my academic standing, help from my high school mentors and resources that I have found through Washburn, I have been fortunate to attend college without financial stress. That was really important to me, I didn’t want to ask my parents for that kind of help.”

     Soto has utilized financial resources while at Washburn, as well as earned scholarships through organizations in which she participates. She is a member of We Are F1rst, the Hispanic American Leadership Organization (HALO) and the Forensic Club. Soto is also a peer educator with the First Year Experience and participates in the Keynote Speaker Event and the WIFI Film Festival with the Mass Media Department.

     “Perla has embraced her Washburn University experience, developing connections in and out of the classroom,” said James Barraclough, interim director of Career Engagement, Washburn. “She has participated in multiple experiential learning opportunities, including internships.”

      And her family enjoys coming to support her in all she does.

      “When they came to see me named as a WU’s Who at Washburn [in 2023], it was very exciting to be able to show my family what their support has helped me accomplish,” said Soto. “My family has helped through all my struggles, it’s difficult for them to understand exactly what I go through in college, but they have been there and tried to understand my journey.”

       “Perla will leave an incredible legacy of advocacy and support of her fellow first-generation students, serving as the president and vice president of We Are F1rst, and just being an example of what it means to successfully navigate college,” said Barraclough.

        Washburn considers a student first-generation if none of their parents or their legal guardians completed a bachelor’s degree (regardless of if siblings or other relatives have earned degrees). The university has multiple programs in place specifically to integrate first-generation students and their families into Washburn University and the college experience.

          “Washburn is committed to supporting these students and families, from the first conversation about their interest in Washburn through graduation,” said Dr. Alan Bearman, vice president for strategic enrollment management and student success, and libraries Washburn University. “Our work on behalf of these students has been recognized nationally.”

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For further information, contact:
Joy Bailes
Director of Internal Communications and Brand Management
Telephone: (785) 670-2153
Cell: (785) 230-1648
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