marian montiel portrait


From a young age, Marian’s father instilled in her the importance of college and education. When Missouri Western visited her high school, she saw her dreams just within reach – being the first member of her family to attend college.

Marian’s life is full of firsts. Before she was a first-generation college student, Marian was the first member of her family born in the United States after her parents emigrated from Nicaragua and Honduras. “My mom is from Honduras and my Dad is from Nicaragua. My parents opened a restaurant and grocery store when I was younger, but they did not know much English. As a seven-year-old, I would help translate for them at the various licensing offices, city hall, or other places as needed.” Helping her parents didn’t stop with their first business, though. “Even now, I am always their right-hand person to do anything they need help with. I would learn whatever I could just to help them out.”

From the time she was that seven-year-old little girl helping translate for her parents, her father instilled in her the importance of “going to university.” The degree that she earns will follow her everywhere and allow her to achieve her goals no matter where she travels. Just because the idea of attending college was instilled in her didn’t mean the path was going to be an easy one.

Marian has faced different challenges as a first-generation college student. She didn’t have guidance on how to look for colleges and programs or even how to fill out the FAFSA. College preparation was Marian’s biggest obstacle. Not only did Marian have to learn how to navigate the path to college, but she had to teach her parents along the way, and now she has to help her younger brother navigate his own college path.

Despite the challenges she faced, Marian knows she made the right choice in Missouri Western. After her first visit to the campus, Marian already felt like a member of the Griffon family. “I chose Missouri Western on my first tour. The two group leaders on the tour are what settled it for me. I knew I wanted to come here because it felt like a family.”

When she first began at Missouri Western, Marian was majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology. “One of the requirements was Psychology 101. I had the class with Dr. Kelly Henry who is now my advisor. Instantly, from that class, I picked psychology up as a minor and continued from there,” Marian said. She soon learned psychology was her true passion. “I noticed that I had so much more attention and motivation to do my work with psychology,” she added. After talking with Dr. Henry, she switched her major to psychology and has been in love with it since.

After graduating, Marian’s initial goal is to become a clinical psychologist with the ultimate goal of bringing more psychological and mental health resources and information to Nicaragua. “Teaching those types of things is something I feel is very important. I don’t really think it’s fair sometimes that some people have to come all the way to the U.S. to get those resources if we are able to share that with them,” Marian said. “I want to be able to open my own practice and hopefully continue the path of my grandparents and open a school.” Both her grandfather and father opened schools in Nicaragua.

Marian’s advice to other first-generation students is to not be afraid to ask questions along the way. “It’s difficult to sometimes do it by yourself, but in the end, it’s so worth it. Looking at your parents’ faces, your siblings’ faces, everybody’s faces looking at what you’re doing is going to be so powerful.”

“My parents are my number one motivators. I’m going to college to get that degree and do better for my life and their lives because they’ve done so much.”
Marian is not alone at Missouri Western. There are many students like her – first-generation students trying their hardest to help their families and better their lives. Your donations help Marian and students like her to pursue their dreams of a better future for their families.