Laila Villeda ’26 is accustomed to being a trailblazer in her family.
Not only is Villeda the first in her family to go to college. The finance major from Cumming, Georgia, also is the first to graduate from high school.
“For my parents to not even have finished middle school, me going to a four-year college is unheard of,” says Villeda. “I am so happy to be paving the way for my family, and to be able to help others like me.”
Villeda and 25 other first-generation students were the first inductees into Wofford’s Theta Omicron Chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha on Nov. 8. Students with a minimum 3.2 GPA and at least 30 earned credit hours are eligible for induction into the honor society for first-gen students. Tri-Alpha was founded in 2018 at Moravian University.
Alice Chen ’26, an accounting and Chinese double major from Spartanburg, South Carolina, says that being part of an organization for first-gen students gives her a greater sense of community.
“I never really put much thought into how much more difficult the whole college process is having parents that did not go to college, simply because that was the norm for me,” Chen says. “Joining the society puts into perspective how lucky I am to be attending college and earning a bachelor’s degree despite the obstacles I have had to face.”
Dr. Boyce Lawton, dean for student success, and Dr. James Stukes, assistant dean of student success and college access, serve as advisors for the group. Stukes, a first-generation student himself, says he is familiar with the feelings these 26 students are experiencing.
“I am a proud first-gen college graduate, and being an advisor of this organization provides me with a deeper sense of community, even as a staff member,” Stukes says. “I am able to provide the support to current students that I was fortunate to receive when I was pursuing my bachelor’s degree.”
The 26 students inducted in the inaugural class were:
Logan Adams ’26, York, South Carolina
Caden Booth ’25, Lamar, South Carolina
Anneka Brannon ’26, Inman, South Carolina
Kayla Chavez ’24, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Alice Chen ’26, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Feng Chen ’24, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Alexis DeLoach ’24, Varnville, South Carolina
Jeanae Escobar ’24, Fort Mill, South Carolina
Brianna Iannone ’26, Little River, South Carolina
Riley Jones ’24, Irmo, South Carolina
Jerry Kerns ’24, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Aiden Lockhart ’26, Greer, South Carolina
Emma McDermott ’24, Charlotte, North Carolina
Ryan Methot ’24, Fountain Inn, South Carolina
Madison Miller ’24, Boiling Springs, South Carolina
Angela Brittany Moore ’26, Prosperity, South Carolina
Kaitlyn Nash ’26, Moncks Corner, South Carolina
Leslie Ortiz Vargas ’24, Waynesville, North Carolina
Drew Peeples ’25, Easley, South Carolina
Sandry Perez ’24, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Ashley Quick ’25, Spartanburg, South Carolina
Marlen Ramirez-Alvarado ’24, Spartanburg, South Carolina
MauriAnna Richardson ’25, Columbia, South Carolina
Emily Schwendemann ’25, Fountain Inn, South Carolina
Makayla Spencer ’25, Gaffney, South Carolina
Laila Villeda ’26, Cumming, Georgia