FirstGens make it at Georgia State and pay it forward

Kash Molwani changed his life by attending college. Photo submitted by Kash Molwani

Being a FirstGen college student is not easy. With hard work and support from Georgia State, however,  these students and alum beat the odds and now some are even paying it forward for future FirstGen students at Georgia State.

Ferdye Bamaca-Forkel was a first-generation college student who had to figure it out by herself.
Photo submitted by Ferdye Bamaca-Forkel

For Georgia State University alum Ferdye Bamaca-Forkel, college was a dream she had to make happen for herself. Ferdye’s dad had dropped out of college in the first year and her mother and siblings never attended.

“I was in classrooms where students were like I’m here because my parents made me or it was given to them that they were going to go,” Bamaca-Forkel said. “But with me, there was no one that showed me how you apply to college or how to apply for scholarships. I had to look out and be the one who asked questions. It was really hard to do that.”

Bamaca-Forkel applied for over a dozen scholarships, not knowing if she would receive them. They were her only means of getting an education.

“My parents absolutely could not afford it,” Bamaca-Forkel said.

Bamaca-Forkel was accepted to receive four of the 14 scholarships she applied for, allowing her to attend college debt-free. In Georgia State, she made it into national honors societies and onto the Dean’s and President’s list.

“When I got into national honors societies I was happy,” Bamaca-Forkel said. “Even my last semester before I graduated, I got into the President’s list and I was obviously really excited because I finished off my college career really strong. But when I told my parents, my mom was like what’s that? I have to explain why I’m happy and I have to explain why this is such a great achievement.”

Like Bamaca-Forkel, Kash Molwani had to make college happen for himself. His parents made only $24,000 a year, and growing up, Molwani helped out by cleaning toilets and washing cars. Coming from a low-income family, Molwani’s only way to get a higher education was through scholarships.

“I heard about this scholarship in Georgia called the Zell Miller which would allow me to go to university for free,” Molwani said. “So with the desire to uplift my family from poverty, I studied hard and became the Valedictorian of AR Johnson Magnet School.”

Molwani received the Zell-Miller scholarship, but also utilized other opportunities Georgia State offered him. He joined Student Support Services, which gave him free counseling, mentoring, and printing, as well as a grant every year. He also became an RA for Housing, which took care of the costs of living on campus. He did all of this while maintaining two jobs, and after switching his major from nursing to business.

Kash Molwani changed his life by attending college. Photo submitted by Kash Molwani

“I found a world of opportunities at the business school by getting involved in programs like the Panthers Accelerated Careers Experience and Panthers On Wall Street,” Molwani said. “I also began leading organizations such as Ascend Business Leaders, Beta Gamma Sigma, etc. which led to me competing in many case competitions, some with major prizes.”

While Molwani never felt pressure from his parents to attend college or keep up his good grades, he pushed himself to always do the best in order to keep his scholarships, because he knew what it would mean for him to fall low or drop out.

“I always feel an internal struggle whenever I feel like I’m not performing at my utmost potential,” Molwani said. “I think about the things I’ve grown up with, the life I used to have, and remember that I have nothing to fall back on so if I quit what I am doing, then I have literally nothing and neither does my family.”

Molwani has raised roughly $108,000 through scholarships in his past four years of college.

“Overall, I think Georgia State does a fantastic job at providing opportunities for its students,” Molwani said. “But it is also the responsibility of the students to take advantage of those opportunities. I just managed to apply myself.”

And those opportunities were what Terrance Rogers and Kyle Stapleton thought of when coming up for their 30 for 30 scholarships.

Terrance Rogers and Kyle Stapleton both started college at Georgia State in 2005. When he was 22 years old, Rogers decided to raise $220 for first generation  college students like himself. Rogers took the idea to Stapleton, who jumped on board and the birthday fund ended up raising over $1,000. The two have been doing fundraisers for their birthdays for almost a decade now and they have raised over $100,000. Their current fundraiser is trying to raise $30,000, in honor of their 30th birthdays The money raised will be used to create an endowment scholarship for one FirstGen college student.

“He and I didn’t come from rich families— we both realise that closes the opportunity gap,” Stapleton said. “We both have seen in a lot of ways we are in the minority in board rooms and networking events. We wanted to do something to help close the opportunity gap. We wanted to create leadership opportunities for people like us who might not have that opportunity otherwise.”