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Douglas’ Transformation to ‘Wonder Woman’ Leads to Graduation

First-generation students are those whose parents don’t have a college degree. Oftentimes, these students are also the first ones in their families to ever set foot on campus as a student. Nationwide, one-third of all college students in the U.S. are first-generation students.

As classes get underway this fall, St. Louis Community College is spotlighting four first-generation students. And while every story is unique, students in this series continue to prove that they have what it takes to overcome obstacles and earn their college degree.

The second story is below; a new story will publish next week.

Natalie Douglas and Melphina AmosShe may not wear red, white and blue, but TRIO Advisor Melphina Amos calls Natalie Douglas ‘Wonder Woman.’

Douglas juggles five classes at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley, coaches other TRIO students and works part time as a certified nursing assistant at Christian Hospital. 

She also helps raise four younger siblings, cooks for the family and tackles household chores. 

After Douglas completes courses this semester, she will graduate with an associate degree in general transfer studies. She will also make history as a first-generation college student or the first person in her family to earn a college degree.

Douglas is racing toward the finish line of graduation now, but she started the journey with a jog. 

“Natalie took a certain amount of classes, and she did not overdo it,” said Amos, who also serves as student support staff development project associate II. “She was just safe every semester.” 

When Douglas started TRIO – federal programs that help people overcome barriers to higher education – Amos said Douglas was unsure of herself, got overwhelmed with courses and just dropped them. 

Today, Douglas is full of confidence. 

“One semester Natalie tries, no she did Anatomy and Physiology I and II. AP has the reputation for being a rigorous class, so her self-confidence went through the roof,” Amos said. “She knew, I can do anything I put my mind to.”

“Because her determination to be successful and graduate is so great, now she is knocking out prerequisites for her higher-level classes to the point where she is taking two or three labs a semester.” 

Douglas has always wanted to work in health care, and her goal is to become a registered nurse.

“Later down the line, I want to open a community mental health facility and help the ones that everyone advocates for but never follow through with action and help them get help,” she said. “I also want to start a child’s program of some sort. I haven’t put a lot of action and thought into it yet, but I do want to get something started.”

TRIO played a role in Douglas’ transformation from mediocre student to “Wonder Woman,” by helping her figure out her goals and plans for life, which made school more enjoyable. 

“My best experience in terms of support is TRIO and my mentor Ms. Mel,” she said. 

Now there is no stopping Douglas. 

“The woman I want to be and the things I want to accomplish makes me move and do what I have to do,” she said. 

Amos can’t stop smiling.

“Natalie is one of those students that once she discovered her goal and her passion, once all of those were in place, she took off and there was no coming back,” Amos said. “Now she is just soaring.” 

She wants to connect other students like Douglas to TRIO early enough to give them the guidance and direction they need. 

“My job is to supply the information,” Amos said. “When I talk to students, I give them as many options as there are to give. 

“Expanding minds and changing lives, that’s what we do here. We are all about the premier student experience. I’ve learned to use those words, because that really is what we do.” 

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