First Generation Scholars Program Exceeds Hudson’s Expectations

Jake Hudson’s (’21) time as a Loras College student exceeded all of his expectations.

“My first year, I really didn’t take college seriously enough. And even though I had always wanted to graduate from college, I thought it was too daunting of a task,” said Hudson, who finished his degree in criminal justice in December and enrolled in January at the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy as a Dubuque police officer.

Jake Hudson (’21) and Sergio Pérez (’13)

“I had to rely on several people to help guide me through my experience. That’s where the First Generation Scholars Program at Loras really made all the difference,” Hudson said. “I had no idea what FAFSA (the Free Application for Federal Student Aid) was. I didn’t know what student loans were. And I just had no idea how to prepare to be successful academically.”

Hudson, the first member of his Dubuque family to attend college, completed his studies at Loras in 3 1/2 years with a cumulative grade point average of 3.4 on a 4.0 scale. He was able to do this while working up to 35 hours per week at Sam’s Club in Dubuque. He gives credit for his success to Sergio Pérez (’13), Director of Inclusion & Advocacy, Diversity Officer and advisor to President Jim Collins (’84).  Pérez formerly oversaw the First Generation Scholars Program.

 “Sergio had a tremendous impact on me, especially in my freshman and sophomore years,” Hudson said. “With his help, I learned how to organize myself, be more self-sufficient and be a better student inside and outside of the classroom.”

Dr. Erica Johnson, assistant director of Inclusion & Advocacy at Loras, succeeded Perez to oversee the First Generation Scholars Program.

“One of the major challenges that first-generation students face is not necessarily having someone in their immediate support system who is familiar with higher education. The idea of really knowing the culture of college or a campus is an issue,” she said. “Our goal is to make sure students feel they have the skills required to be successful at Loras.”

Dr. Erica Johnson

Loras started its First Generation Scholars Program in 2017. It was designed to give up to $1,500 annually to up to 120 students – 30 in the first-year, sophomore, junior and senior classes at Loras. About 100 students are receiving scholarships this academic year. 

The Rev. Timothy Fitzgerald (’71) would like other Duhawks to join him in helping to fund the First-Generation Scholars program. The first member of his family to graduate from college, Fitzgerald has established the First Generation Student Scholarship, an endowed fund into which he someday will direct an estate gift. In the meantime, he has set up the First Generation Student Award. Money designated annually for the award will go directly to first-generation students at Loras. To join Fitzgerald in supporting either the award or the endowed fund, please contact Chris Steinbach (MBA ’20) at (563) 588-7987 or by email at chris.steinbach@loras.edu.

While this financial support is critical for students, Johnson says it’s also important to remember the First Generation Scholars Program isn’t a typical grant or scholarship. Recipients must participate in activities and events organized by the program.

“We want to do programming that contributes to the students’ success in the classroom and outside of the classroom as well,” Johnson said. “We’re not focused on one aspect of their lives. We understand the importance of our students being successful in all facets of their lives and that’s what we’re truly committed to.”

About Loras College
Founded in 1839, Loras College leverages its historic roots as Iowa’s first college, the second oldest Catholic college west of the Mississippi River and one of the nation’s 10 diocesan colleges to deliver challenging, life-changing experiences as part of its residential, Catholic setting. In 2020, Loras was ranked the 16th Best Regional College in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and one of America’s Top 200 Most Loved Colleges/Universities by Forbes Magazine for the fourth consecutive year. Loras students ranked No. 2 in the world as part of the global Peeptrade Investment Challenge while a second group ranked No. 4. For the 12th consecutive year, Loras Media Studies student-led television station (LCTV) was named the TV Station of the Year by the Iowa College Media Association (ICMA).