First-generation college student discovers community and career path at Alma College
ALMA — Maggie Rosales came to Alma College with a shy disposition and an open mind.
As Rosales prepares to graduate, she’s leaving with a clear path to a rewarding career and dozens of new friends.
Rosales, a senior from Holland, Mich., intends to begin studying for a Master of Social Work degree at Grand Valley State University in the fall. In time, she hopes to land a job as a school social worker, helping children who are going through hard times to become the best version of themselves.
“I was a psychology major here at Alma, and I knew I wanted to work with kids in some way, but I hadn’t exactly figured out how to marry the two ideas,” Rosales said. “Then a school social worker came to one of my classes and explained what her job was like, and everything clicked. It sounded like the perfect job for me.
“Alma College Special Education Professor Dr. Peggy Yates helped me to get an internship with Ithaca Public Schools, where I was able to work under a social worker, Shelly Bailey. I knew it was where I needed to be — a place that I could make a difference.”
Rosales’ desire to help others in need may stem, she said, from having been the recipient of help in the past.
When Rosales came to Alma in 2017, she quickly joined the King-Chavez-Parks (KCP) Mentor Program, which is designed for first-year students seeking mentorship in navigating college and all it has to offer: the academic, social and financial aspects. There, Rosales was partnered with an upperclass student, TiKilah Turner, who not only helped guide her during her first year away from home — they eventually became a good friend.
Since then, Rosales has become a mentor herself, and even worked part-time as an office assistant with KCP.
“As a first-generation college student, it was a great feeling to know I had someone who could guide me from the get-go. These are people who care about your success and can help with everything from how to study to where to find things on campus. That’s so important when you’re just starting out,” Rosales said.
“I’ve stuck with the organization because I wanted to help build up that community here on campus. We’ve become a big family.”
Through her mentor at KCP, Rosales was introduced to the college’s Multi-Cultural Student Union (MCSU), a group dedicated to increasing awareness and promoting diversity on Alma’s campus.
There, Rosales said, she found another small community on campus, as well as opportunities for personal growth. She has since risen to become the vice president of the organization.
“There’s a club for every little interest at Alma, which is great, but the MCSU feels like an ‘everything club for everyone,’” Rosales said. “MCSU can be anything its members want it to be, and that has helped as times have changed.”
In addition to her other affiliations at Alma, Rosales serves as a leader of Tea Time with God, a Bible study specifically for women, and is a resident assistant. Her list of affiliations on campus is long, and it might not have been possible at a larger school.
Rosales credits Alma’s relatively small campus size — 29 major buildings on 130 acres — and 12:1 student-to-faculty ratio with helping her feel comfortable in her skin. Thanks to that sense of comfort, Rosales said, she has been able to develop and reach her goal of helping others.
“I came in very shy, very quiet, and sort of scared to put myself out there and get to know new people. By my sophomore year, I had met great friends and I haven’t looked back. I’ve developed my voice, grown in confidence and feel so good about my choice to come to Alma College,” she said.