ATU First Gen Institute Shows Students a Path Forward

2023 ATU First Generation Institute Participants
Group photo of the participants in the 2023 Arkansas Tech University First Generation Institute, which took place June 6-8 on the ATU campus in Russellville.

Several participants accepted an invitation from Arkansas Tech University staff member Deidra Dillard to come forward and speak about their experience at the 2023 ATU First Generation Institute during the program’s closing ceremony on Thursday, June 8.

One of those speakers captured the spirit of the event and left Dillard with an indelible memory.

“Many were eager to speak, which alone made my heart so happy,” said Dillard, who serves as first-generation student experience coordinator at ATU. “But one student in particular, Jazmin Zapata, mentioned how this experience made her feel seen, included and a part of something, and she had not felt that before.”

The ATU First Generation Institute provides rising high school seniors who are seeking to become the first generation of their family to attend college with a preview of what it is like to be an Arkansas Tech student. ATU has offered the institute each summer since 2019. Twenty-six rising high school seniors completed the 2023 program.

Specific goals of the three-day ATU First Generation Institute include providing participants with the opportunity to interact with current ATU students, discover academic opportunities, gain a better understanding of life as a college student, learn about ways to finance their education and discover ways to get involved outside the classroom.

“Every student came in ready and willing to embrace everything we had planned for them,” said Dillard. “Each person walked away knowing someone else with whom they otherwise may have never crossed paths. When the students were surprised with their admission letter and very first scholarship, the was not a dry eye in the building. Phone calls and FaceTimes were made, pictures were taken and messages were sent to their friends and family members to show off their accomplishments. I will honestly never forget that moment and how it made me feel.”

Learn more about the ATU First Generation Institute at

Students who completed the 2023 ATU First Generation Institute are listed below:

  • Andrew Bokker of Rogers
  • Hayden Brunt of Hot Springs
  • Yxallana Chavez of Dumas
  • Zoi Figley of Hartman
  • Darby Fisk of Hot Springs
  • Alyssa Godat of Yellville
  • Taylor Houck of Ashdown
  • Alasyia Jackson of Ashdown
  • Jamie Johnston of Horseshoe Bend
  • Aryanna King of Paris
  • Bailey Marlow of Lamar
  • Hailey May of Horseshoe Bend
  • Nacole Nahlen of Dover
  • Kraigen Partee of Mountain Home
  • Alondra Ramirez-Sgromo of North Little Rock
  • Alice Regalado of Warren
  • Chasity Rice of Leslie
  • Juana Ruiz of El Dorado
  • Camira Selvy of Conway
  • Autumn Simrell of Garfield
  • Crystal Solorzano of Siloam Springs
  • Emma Stewart of North Little Rock
  • Clara Strickland of Jacksonville
  • Maria Torres of Springdale
  • Tristen Williams of Pea Ridge
  • Jazmin Zapata of El Dorado