First-Generation College Student Earns Award and Plans to Help Community: NorthWest Arkansas Community College

Main Content Start

First-Generation College Student Earns Award and Plans to Help Community

nwacc student

Although NWACC student Luis Gallardo moved to the United States from Mexico in 2014 without knowing a word of English, he knew he wanted to pursue his dreams.

“It has been almost five years since I moved to the U.S.A and as time has passed by, I have met a lot of wonderful people who have been there for me and have helped me to accomplish my goals and dreams, even when I did not speak the language. Even though it was a rough time while trying to adapt to a new country and learning new language, I’ve never given up,”Luis said. 

Through perseverance and determination, he quickly began to learn English, and as a senior in high school, he attended one of NWACC’s LIFE Program events, where he met LIFE Program Director Juanita Franklin.

“I was so impressed with Luis' enthusiasm and leadership skills from the moment I met him. When I found out that he had only been in the country for two years and spoke absolutely no English when he arrived, I was even more impressed,” Juanita said.

Luis went on to graduate from high school with 3.94 GPA and enrolled at NWACC in the Fall of 2017. As the first generation within his family to attend college, he plans to earn a master’s degree in social work and minor in Latino and American studies. With his degrees, he’d like to assist struggling community members in obtaining the best resources to pursue opportunities that better their lives.

“Since I have gone through a difficult situation while trying to adapt to this culture and language, I feel that if I pursue a degree related to helping people, like a social worker, I can work for the government, a hospital, or a school… I will be able to help a lot of students, parents and the people in my community take advantage of all the resources that our community has to offer,” Luis said.

Luis’ persistence in strengthening his education, personal development and leadership skills, as well as his participation in NWACC Registered Student Organizations have led to his nomination for NWACC’s Golden Eagle Award. This February, Luis won the prestigious award.

NWACC students who are nominated for the Golden Eagle Award must have a minimum 3.0 grade point average and demonstrate a commitment to education, social awareness, and personal development and be involved in varied activities. Recipients receive a certificate of recognition and a $100 check from the NWACC Foundation at the NWACC Board of Trustees meetings.

Luis was nominated by NWACC’s LIFE Program Director Juanita Franklin. “Luis is such an inspiration and role model to so many students; especially to those that are English language learners and think that because of that, they cannot succeed in college,” she said. 

“Winning the golden eagle award means so much to me since there are a lot of amazing students at NWACC that can be nominated to receive this award. When I got the email saying that I was the recipient, I could not believe it. My heart was filled with joy and I was so excited about the news!” Luis added.

Outside of his school studies, Luis volunteers as a LIFE program mentor where he enjoys being a resource for high school students who want to learn more about attending college. 

“Our goal as mentors is to talk to high school students, tell them our stories, and try to have an impact in their lives, so they can see college in their futures as well… we help with scholarships applications, college applications, FAFSA application, and provide overall support,” he explained. “I decided to be part of this volunteer program because I want our future generation to get an education which will provide better jobs, more home ownership, more community involvement, which will lead to less crime, more job opportunities and better communities.”

In addition to school and volunteering, Luis works at least 30 hours per week. He pays his own expenses and helps with family expenses when needed. Although not financially, he has the support of his family to fulfill his dreams – earning a college education and helping his community.

“I want to accomplish all these goals because I want to help my community by working as a role model,” he said. “I want to help people achieve their goals. I want our community to have more leaders. I am a strong believer that I can help bring this positive change.”



There’s a Place for You Here.

Visit or call 479-986-4000 to learn more about choosing a higher education with NWACC.