Name: Cayla Eagon
Residence: Greenville, S.C.
Raised by a single, Mexican-American mother, Cayla Eagon grew up watching her mother manage an alteration business. Eagon's mother home-schooled Eagon and her sister, fixed supper each night and still had time to read to them before bed. Although her mother never graduated from college, Eagon's mother passed on to her an appreciation of language and desire for learning paired with a strong work ethic. These qualities have served as the foundation of Eagon’s academic goals, and being a first generation student has given her the drive to work diligently towards these goals.
Eagon spent her first years of college at Greenville Tech in Greenville, S.C., where she graduated from the Honors Program with an associate of arts degree. “I balanced my full-course load with a full-time job as a project coordinator for a company that supplied commercial kitchen equipment to restaurant chains, she said.
In addition, she volunteered as an adult basic education tutor for the Greenville Literacy Association. She tutored a Russian woman in English reading and writing skills for the GED test, and the woman has since attended college. “These experiences, in addition to my mother’s early influence, have inspired my desire to study literature and language,” Eagon said.
Eagon transferred to Winthrop and became an English major, primarily studying British literature of the 18th and 19th centuries with an emphasis on the role of women and feminist literature. She was accepted into the inaugural McNair Scholars Program, which is a federally funded program designed to help first generation, low-income and/or underrepresented students prepare to enter a doctoral program. She also has presented a literary research paper at the annual Winthrop English Department's research conference and had her paper abstract published in Winthrop's "Undergraduate Scholarship Book of Abstracts 2010."
She plans to enter an English Ph.D. program and eventually become a professor of literature. “I cannot imagine a more rewarding career than getting to share my inherited appreciation of language with others by teaching, being able to mentor driven first generation students like myself, and helping students reach their own goals of higher education,” Eagon said. “As a first generation student, higher education means overcoming the odds to be one less statistic.
“Therefore, achieving my academic goals is not just for me; it’s for my mother, who sacrificed her educational opportunities to be my mom; it’s for my little sister, who looks up to me as a role model; and it’s for my future students, who might think they aren’t cut out for college because their parents didn’t go,” she said. “For me, being a first generation college student means having dreams and making them come true, even if it seems impossible.”