Cardinal First Ambassadors wearing their official T-shirts.

Cardinal First Student Testimonials


Let us guide you through your college experience

Learn more about what North Central College is really like for a first-generation student from the people who know. These students have very different stories and they took very different paths to finding their way at North Central. Each one has used Cardinal First as a tool to help them along the way.

Find out how North Central can fit into your plan for success.

Arika Falk ’19

Winthrop Harbor, Ill.


“Cardinal First is an amazing program that allowed me to become more acclimated to campus, and it strengthened my confidence. The program opened my eyes to many great resources on campus, I was able to meet wonderful professors who have been in my shoes as a first-year student, and I met people who have become great friends of mine. This program truly makes you feel welcomed in the North Central community, and you're never alone.”

Arika Falk ’19

Jake Zemba ’19

Derry, Pa.


“Cardinal First gave me the opportunity to become confident in the transition from high school student to college student. Cardinal First really helped me learn to how manage my time efficiently and effectively especially with 10-week terms. I would recommend the Cardinal First program to other first-generation students because the program provides great support, valuable lessons and learning experiences.”

Jake Zemba ’19

Kenya ’21 and Arabia Patino ’20

Aurora, Ill.


Kenya: "Being a first-generation student has been an honor. But it can also be scary and stressful sometimes, since you have to figure out how to do everything without your parents’ help. (That's why I chose North Central.) Not only was my sister already at North Central, but going here allowed me to be close to home. A lot of my high school teachers also attended North Central and had high praise for the College."

Arabia: I liked the idea of a small school because it would allow me to grow close with fellow students and professors. I’m not only representing myself, but also my family. Since I’m the oldest, I feel like if I succeed then there will be so many opportunities for my three siblings and future family. I get to experience so many new things that no one in my family experienced. All the hard work is worth it."

Find out more about Kenya and Arabia.

Arabia and Kenya Patino

Francisco Segarra ’20

Aurora, Ill.


"Cardinal First is a great program run by even better people. The sense of welcoming is apparent from your first encounter with your ambassadors. 10-week trimesters move at a very fast pace, and Cardinal First was there to help me by providing a planner to keep me on track, stress-relieving breathing techniques, time management advice and help with resources the College provides. Being the first in my family to go to college is stressful, but luckily Cardinal First is there to help me carry the load."

Francisco Segarra ’20

Nikki Novak ’20

Tinley Park, Ill.


"My favorite part about being a Cardinal First Ambassador is helping first-year students here at North Central. I like being able to give them advice to help them transition into college as smoothly as possible. Cardinal First workshops really helped me out a lot my freshman year and had a lot of beneficial information that I was able to apply to my life. Being able to participate in these workshops and help first-generation students like I was helped my first year means a lot to me. I would recommend all first-generation students participate in these workshops."

Nikki Novak ’20

Lewis Clay ’20

Peoria, Ill.


"Being an ambassador in Cardinal First allows me to be a resource for students who come into college just like I came into college - with no prior knowledge of what was ahead of me, not knowing what college was all about or even how to be on my own away from family. This is the main reason why I decided to become a Cardinal First Ambassador; I wanted to help first-year students make the transition into college and be successful here at North Central."

Lewis Clay

Sheryll Hernandez ’19

Elk Grove Village, Ill.


"I would recommend the Cardinal First program to other first-generation students because of its positive atmosphere and influence. The program helped me become a more successful college student and taught me the importance of time management and hard work. It has also taught me that just because I am a first-generation student, it doesn’t mean that I am below anyone else. Having first-generation faculty come in to our sessions has given me a positive outlook on being a first-generation student."

Sheryll Hernandez

Cherokee Imel ’19

Earlville, Ill.


"Cardinal First has given me the opportunity to learn more about what to expect not only throughout my first year at North Central, but also what to expect throughout the next few years. It is a beneficial program in that it provides great advice and support. As a Cardinal First member, I have had the privilege of meeting many new friends and listening to numerous inspirational speakers that have had a positive impact on me."

Cherokee Imel

Elora Venchus ’19

Carol Stream, Ill.


"Cardinal First has been beneficial to me as a first generation commuter student because it allows me to spend more time on campus meeting people and forging relationships. Cardinal First gives me an opportunity to engage in conversation with new people each month and really helps me to grow more comfortable outside my comfort zone in a safe environment.   It's nice to know I have a support system, and that I am not alone in my struggle navigating my first year of college."

Elora Venchus

Andrianna Martinez ’19

Crest Hill, Ill.


"Cardinal First gave me a support group I didn't know I needed. It was something that kept me engaged and reminded me why I'm at college and that I am not alone. It was helpful and inspiring to hear the many different stories of the Cardinal First professors and ambassadors. I hope to be a Cardinal First Ambassador next year because I want to help guide fellow Cardinal First first-year students."

Andrianna Martinez

Shaina Flowers ‘18


After I finished my Associates in Science at Waubonsee Community College, I transferred to North Central College. I knew only one person, because she also attended WCC with me and then transferred to NCC. However, we both had different majors and I did not see her much. My admission adviser told me about a program called Cardinal First and said to meet with Julie Carballo who is the director of first generation student programs. When I met with her I remember feeling like I had no idea what I was even doing. After that she kept me up to date with all the meetings that was going on and I attended some of those and they were very informative for first gen students and even transfer students. The program also helped me figure out what I truly wanted to major in and it was Economics. I believe this program is a perfect way to attain knowledge about all the resources on campus and what the school can do for you. I was very impressed with how involved the program and the school was with students who are the first in their immediate family to go to college. Cardinal First truly helps you stay on track and motivated to succeed in your goals. 


Transfer Student Testimonials

Kristen Sullivan ‘20


I do not think I would have succeeded as much as I did without Cardinal First. It gave me the confidence and inspiration I needed to persevere in my education. The workshops helped me gain skills and gave me the opportunity to meet professors that are also first-gen; they have great advice. I also had the opportunity to meet people and learn more about what was going on around campus. I do not think I would be where I am now without Cardinal First. 

Kristen Sullivan ‘20

Vanessa Aguilar ‘20


Cardinal First Transition helped me feel like I was here for the past two years. It taught me to be involved and know about all the resources available on campus. I also learned important steps that I need to take to help my career before I graduate.  

Vanessa Aguilar ‘20

Madysen Nardi ‘20


Being a part of Cardinal First really helped me find valuable opportunities that every student at North Central College should take advantage of.  

Madysen Nardi ‘20

Wynter Nardi ‘20


Cardinal First helped me be aware of all the available resources we have here on campus, meet other students and provided me with many volunteer opportunities! 

Wynter Nardi ‘20

Miranda Dusing ‘20


Cardinal First helped me find my way to get involved around campus and make my first handful of friends!  

Miranda Dusing ‘20

Tami Kidd-Brown ‘22


I enjoyed the Cardinal First program and the informational sessions. I especially enjoyed hearing from the guest speakers in regards to their own experiences of being first generation college graduates. It helped me feel a little less lost those first few weeks. 

Cilla Prato ‘20


I have to thank Cardinal First because it was the first organization that I was exposed to on campus. I feel as though there is a community between all the students that are first generation. Not only is this program help me grow as a student, but also made me feel more confident for when I graduate from North Central. 

Cassandra Smith ‘20


Cardinal first was an excellent and informative organization and group to join.  I learned a bunch of career orientated and school related information while being in Cardinal First. I am glad I joined because it made me feel like I was on the right path, and sort of gave me an idea of what to do, especially being a transfer student.


Related Pages

Discover more about Cardinal First