Dec 17, 2021

FHSU first-generation grad delighted to pay it forward

Posted Dec 17, 2021 11:05 AM

Aneth Morales-Canales questions how she will ever repay Fort Hays State University for what she calls an “experience of a lifetime.” On second thought, she knows the answer.

She is excited for the opportunity to pay it forward.

Aneth will graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in Spanish at Friday’s FHSU fall commencement ceremonies. Then she will begin work for the College Advising Corps (CAC), which partners with Kansas State University to place advisors in different regions across the state.

The CAC assists low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented high school students to learn about college preparation and career opportunities. Aneth will be stationed in Liberal, a town of 19,800 in the far southwest corner of Kansas whose population is nearly 70 percent Hispanic.

“I’m so grateful to have found this organization, because I get to fill a need that students may have in Liberal,” said Aneth, a first-generation college graduate for her family. “I am looking forward to letting them know that they can make it happen if they wish to seek higher education or enter the workforce.”

And Aneth should know.

She moved from her native Mexico at age 9, knowing little, if anything, about the English language. Having been raised early on by her grandmother, Aneth and her brother joined their mom and their sister in Dodge City to embark on a new life.

Determined to succeed in her new home, Aneth took advantage of the English As A Second Language program. She survived some challenges in elementary school and went on to graduate in the top 10 percent of her class at Dodge City High School in 2017 and was chosen as a keynote speaker at commencement. She decided to stay close to home to attend college and spend her first two years at Dodge City Community College, from where she also graduated with highest honors.

Knowing that she wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree, Aneth began researching four-year institutions early in her sophomore year at DCCC. Fort Hays State made the shortlist of her choices right away.

Like so many students, Aneth said she was impressed with FHSU’s campus – and the warm welcome she received from Tiger Nation.

“When I visited, I fell in love with everything about campus,” she said, “so it made it easy for me to transfer.”

Once on campus, Aneth got involved with several student organizations and continued to blossom. She didn’t even let a worldwide pandemic derail her goals. When FHSU pivoted to remote operations because of Covid-19 in March 2020 and continued to hold classes online, Aneth welcomed another new way of learning.

“I really liked the approach the professors took, not trying to match exactly what we had with an in-person classroom but instead optimizing the new delivery with lecturing online,” she said. “They were really flexible with us students. I truly admire the leadership at FHSU and the faculty of my department. Their efforts ensured that the quality of our education remained unchanged, and I continue to be very inspired by that.”

Ken Windholz, one of Aneth’s instructors in her psychology classes, wasn’t in the least bit surprised that she was successful despite challenges with the transition.

“Aneth has such an eagerness to learn and help educate herself, and she has taken advantage of every opportunity that has come her way,” Windholz said. “She would always ask questions and probe deeper into the material. Even when we had hybrid classes over Zoom, she didn’t let that inhibit her learning at all.”

As she prepares for the next step of life’s journey, Aneth talks about special events in her life that she will cherish forever. One of those is becoming a U.S. citizen in 2019. Another will be crossing the stage in FHSU’s Gross Memorial Coliseum to accept her diploma. She is certain that list will continue to grow when she begins helping students through the College Advising Corps.

“Aneth wants to help people, and she has so much social and emotional intelligence,” Windholz said. “She is very sincere and genuine and just understands people so well. She is perfect for that job.”