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Breaking barriers: A first-generation college scholar’s journey to success in public relations

For Cecilia Mercado Martin, a first-generation college student from the south side of Milwaukee, the journey from high school to the halls of a university seemed like an insurmountable task. With a dedicated mindset, Cecilia is now a sophomore at Marquette University majoring in public relations.

“I grew up in the southside of Milwaukee which has been a neglected part of our city,” Cecilia reflected. “I am not ashamed of where I come from or where I went to school, but some people struggle to connect the Milwaukee they know with the one I know. If I wanted to succeed in life I knew I would have to take the first step in pursuing higher education to get there.” 

Facing obstacles with tenacious resilience, Cecilia knew she could lean on her family and her College Possible coach, Emily, to help her persevere. Emily was there to help her navigate the complex web of admissions, financial aid, and scholarship applications, in addition to encouraging her to find her best-fit college. 

“I joined College Possible because I needed extra support as I started my college journey and it was one of the best decisions I made,” said Cecilia. “I am eternally grateful for all those from College Possible that have helped me along my college journey; all of them have made a lasting impact in my life and have taught me so much about what I want and need to succeed.”

Cecilia’s dedication to her education goals did not go unrequited– her academic achievements led her to securing the Kohler Scholarship. The Kohler Scholars Program is a multi-year scholarship program in collaboration with Kohler Co. that provides recipients with a $5,000 annual scholarship, a professional Kohler mentor, career exploration opportunities at Kohler headquarters, and a paid internship that upon graduation could result in full-time employment. 

“I am really proud of being a Kohler Scholar,” exclaimed Cecilia. “I was a senior in high school when I received the scholarship and it has helped me so much. It has lessened the burden of college tuition, and it also helped me get a jumpstart in my career. I learned so much this past summer working in the HR communications department and it’s something I’ll take with me into the future.”

As Cecilia continues to excel in her studies and career endeavors, she looks forward to a future of working closely with the public in a corporate or political communications role. She dedicates her unmatched motivation to pursue her dreams to her parents. 

“I hope that by pursuing higher education, I can start helping my parents because I would not have been able to get here without their support,” said Cecilia. “I want to pay them back for all that they have given me and for supporting my goals even when times were hard on us.”

The next round of applications for the Kohler Scholars Program will launch in January 2024. If you are a College Possible scholar interested in applying, contact your coach. Since the program was established in 2022, Kohler Co. has committed over $200,000 to supporting College Possible scholars on their paths toward a college degree.

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