Our First Gen Journey series puts a spotlight on the unique stories and experiences of WSU Global Campus students and staff members who are, or will be, in the first generation of their families to earn a four-year college degree.

Kelly Painter, WSU Staff Member

Kelly Painter

Kelly Painter grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada. According to her, her childhood was often a turbulent one, with her parents divorcing when she was young. However, her parents’ desire for her to have a better life than they did was one of the motivating factors in her powerful desire to to graduate from college.

“From a young age, college was always part of the plan. I wanted to be financially stable. I wanted to be able to support myself and my family.”

In 2017, Kelly achieved her lifelong ambition, graduating from the University of Idaho with a B.S. in Natural Resource Conservation Planning and Management.

On the path to commencement, Kelly says she faced many challenges, including financial issues and fears that she wouldn’t live up to her goals. But she always had support along the way. 

“My husband was very helpful in motivating me to stick with it. There were a lot of times when it just felt too hard. He reminded me how far I’d come and how I didn’t come this far to give up. I am very grateful for him.”

Kelly wants those considering pursuing their college degree, or currently working to achieve it, to be empowered and know that they can do whatever they set their minds to. 

“I want people to know that if you want something bad enough, you will work to make it happen. If you don’t, you’ll work to make an excuse. It sounds cliché, but it’s true. You’re in charge of your life. You get to decide how it’s going to go. In the end, you will feel so incredibly proud of yourself at the finish line. College isn’t just about the education. There are so many experiences and life lessons to learn along the way.”

Today, Kelly works as a education manager for WSU Academic Outreach and Innovation, helping others achieve their professional education goals.