First Gen Icon: Oprah Winfrey, television host, actress, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur

Oprah Winfrey | First Gen Icon - Image Impact International #beinspired #oprah #firstgenicon #icon

Oprah Winfrey | First Gen Icon - Image Impact International #beinspired #oprah #firstgenicon #icon

By: Alejandra Flores

All college students have the right to feel proud, but first-time college students should feel more than proud, they’re astounding.

All college students demonstrate dedication and effort, yet first generation college students deal with the same hardship in addition to multiple obstacles against them. This generation of students tend to struggle with finding financial support, they’re lacking resources and in some cases they’re the primary source of income in their families. This causes first generation college students to juggle work and school, and this hard work doesn’t only impact their academic lives but it can also affect their mental and physical health.

These barriers could defeat anyone in that position, yet first generation college students have the strength and courage to succeed.

First generation college students need to feel encouraged and accepted. They’re not the only ones who are living in that situation and they are clearly not alone.

First generation students need validation and encouragement to continue their academic journey. One source of encouragement are mentors, who can provide knowledge and are most of the time a source of positive behavior. Mentors can guide students through the hoops of what college is really about by guiding them towards the right choices for them. Sadly, this is not always the case. Plenty of times students cannot find a person to orient them during their higher academic path. How can a first-generation college student, who lacks the resources and connections, find mentoring or advice to make their college experience the best it can be?

Although finding a guide is not impossible, it can definitely be difficult to find someone who a student can trust and assist in a way where the student’s best interest is met. First generation college students can obtain encouragement from other students who may be in the same situation. Professors who once were first generation students can also play a great role for mentoring, but another type of guidance can be people who have gone through the same academic path and succeeded. Oprah Winfrey is a great example of a successful story about a first-generation college student, and parts of her life are something everyone can learn about and relate to.

Oprah Winfrey is an “American television host, actress, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur… ” (, but before Oprah became a total success, she was simply a girl from a rural town in Mississippi.

Oprah Gail Winfrey was born January 29th, 1954 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. Her parents separated when she was very young, and soon after that Oprah began living under the care of her maternal grandmother. She grew up in a rural part of Mississippi, surrounded by farm animals. According to the Encyclopedia of World Biography“ ...Winfrey skipped kindergarten after writing a note to her teacher on the first day of school saying she belonged in the first grade. She was promoted to third grade after that year.” At such a young age, Oprah Winfrey had given signals of greatness.

Shortly after, Oprah moved to Milwaukee where she joined her mother and siblings. Once in Milwaukee, Oprah was exposed to extreme poverty and violence. After living with her mother as a housemaid in Milwaukee, and suffering mistreatment from her mother’s roommate, Oprah was sent to Nashville, Tennessee to live with her father. This was one of the happiest time during Oprah’s childhood. This period gave her confidence, she started making speeches at social gathering that helped her realize she wanted to be paid to speak and be heard. Unfortunately, this happy period in Oprah’s life did not last long. She was sent back to her mother’s side and left the safety her father’s home offered. While living with her mother, Oprah suffered abuse by relatives and family friends. This happened due to the lack of adult supervision since her mother had odd jobs and didn’t have time to spend time with her children. Oprah’s childhood was filled with terrible events and traumas that would’ve devastated anyone, yet she persisted.

After years of abuse and bad behavior, Oprah’s mother decided to send her back to her father’s home in Tennessee. Luckily for Oprah, she had her father’s support. He offered her a safe home with guidance, rules and education. Even though Oprah’s father was strict, the structured he provided for her made her who she is, an individual with civility and with a focus in life. He motivated Oprah to become a magnificent student, she participated in various extracurricular activities and was overly involved with clubs are her school. All her involvement in school, her dedication and hard effort finally paid off when she was granted a full-time scholarship to Tennessee State University. Oprah became a freshman in 1971. Once in college, Oprah’s career began to develop at a fast speed. Besides being a full-time college student, Oprah was involved in radio and television broadcasting in Tennessee.


Oprah began her career while still in college, using the advice from professor to network and make connections while still in school. In 1973 Oprah graduated college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications and Performing Arts and in 1976 Oprah moved to Baltimore to follow her career in broadcasting. Ever since, Oprah has not stopped working and improving herself each and every day.

Her charm, talent, civility and hard work opened doors for her everywhere. Oprah has become a symbol of strength and motivation for many to follow. Oprah’s story demonstrates how a person can succeed even while their lives are at a low point in time.

Oprah used her experiences to become an icon of prosperity, civility and a great influence for young college students to follow.


“Oprah Winfrey.”, A&E Networks Television, 21 Mar. 2018,

“Oprah Winfrey Biography.” Encyclopedia of World Biography,, Snejana Farberov For. “Oprah Recalls the Traumatic Night She Was Sent to Live with Her Mother in Wisconsin - and Forced to Sleep Outside on a Porch Because Her Skin Was 'Too Dark'.” Daily Mail Online, Associated Newspapers, 14 Oct. 2015,

Fry, Elizabeth. “Did Oprah's Childhood Shape Her Career?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo,