Delivered by a Duke first generation college student at the 2017 School Days event.

Fausto Paguada Figueroa – Duke ’15

Hi my name is Fausto, I grew up in Durham and recently graduated from Duke. I now work in the Office of Undergraduate Education.

Just like you, I once sat on those same seats so technically I am considered a Duke Durham School Days alum.

To share some of my background, I come from an immigrant, working class family raised by a single mother after moving here from Honduras in 2004.

It is refreshing to see all of you and for us to come together since I once sat in those same seat where all of you are seating. As an 8th grader at Brogden middle school, I visited Duke campus which helped to plant a seed of interest and allowed me to see myself on going to college.

After the visit, I went back to school and made an effort to do well in all my classes. This proved to be very rewarding when I would get recognized at the end of each year for good grades but it began to create good work habits most importantly. Those habits helped to groom a work ethic that stood out when I applied to college. My hard work and passion for helping in my community is what I think helped me earned a spot when I applied to Duke.

As a low income immigrant and first in my family to go to college, I had little information of the college application process. My high school counselor played an important role all throughout. She pushed me to research colleges, taught me what it meant to apply and provided necessary deadlines and plans for me to undergo that process. Please consider visiting your counselor today – they are there to help you and they want to help.

Through this process, nothing was assured of whether or not I would get accepted but I figured I would lose nothing by simply applying. If anything, I would learn what to do better from any rejections I received.

I want to encourage you all to foremost focus on your academics and reach out to your teachers and mentors whenever possible for help. Push yourself to do well in school and take advance classes. Also, pursue activities outside the classroom that interest you whether that is a sport, a club/organization, a community service.

This is what I did!

As you all know, college can be quite expensive but decided to focus on finances last. I instead focused on convincing colleges that I belonged in their campuses. In the end, I was accepted to a good amount of the colleges I applied to, and Duke in particular worked hard to assure I came. Today I have graduated with no worry of debt. Duke made sure my education was paid for and this is possible for you too.

You are young and have a lot of time ahead. Plan wisely and don’t be afraid to ask for help!

Thank you!