“Just like you need water, you need education”

troy wildenberg, maryan garane, and sonia paredes

From left to right: Troy Wildenberg, Maryan Garane, and Sonia Paredes. Photo by Erica Loeks.

Troy Wildenberg of Wisconsin says the University of Minnesota campus felt right for him from his very first visit. He’s taking advantage of an integrated degree program to study youth studies, leadership, and social justice. He spent winter break in South Africa learning how that nation ended apartheid.

Sonia Paredes grew up in north Minneapolis. Her parents always expected her to pursue higher education. She says at first she felt isolated, but with college came community.

Maryan Garane, whose parents fled civil war in Somalia and came to the United States in 1993, aims to use her college experience to create positive change for diverse communities in workplaces, schools, and government.

“Just like you need water, you need education,” she says.

Wildenberg, Paredes, and Garane all came to the U of M’s College of Education and Human Development as first-generation students—the first in their families to attend college.

Almost 30 percent of U of M students (nearly 13,000) are first-generation. They come from different backgrounds and places, and their personal stories are unique. Yet their belief in higher education is the same—it is the surest path to success.


Learn more about these students at the College of Education and Human Development's Connect magazine.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities