Natalie Rosales-Hawkins, assistant director of recreational programs.EDWARDSVILLE - Southern Illinois University Edwardsville’s Natalie Rosales-Hawkins, assistant director of recreational programs, was a featured panelist on Hidden Talents National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) with NIRSA President Wendy Windsor.

“I was very honored to have an opportunity to share my experiences and journey about what it meant for me to attend college,” said Rosales-Hawkins. “All of my past experiences, challenges and mentors have impacted my life to where I am now, and I feel I have grown from these past experiences into the campus recreation professional I am today.”

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The discussion featured NIRSA leaders who were first-generation college students. Along with Rosales-Hawkins, panel members included Carlos Garcia, director of aquatics at Texas A&M University, Ashford Evans-Brown, assistant director of fitness facility operations at Florida State University, and D.J. Preston, director of recreation and wellness at Radford University.

Each panelist touched on how their childhood influenced their decision to attend college and how being a first-generation college student impacted their college experience. Rosales-Hawkins shared her perspective and specifically why she chose to become a campus recreation professional.

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“Everyone has a different path on what led them to decide to attend college,” Rosales-Hawkins continued. “Some decisions are scary, but taking the first step is the hardest thing to do and be brave.”

Rosales-Hawkins advises current first-generation students to “surround yourself with others that want you to be successful and that help put you on the path that may not be what you want right now, but it is the path that you need in the future.”

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Southern Illinois University Edwardsville provides students with a high-quality education that powerfully transforms the lives of all individuals who seek something greater. A premier metropolitan university, SIUE is creating social and economic mobility for individuals while also powering the workforce of the future. Built on the foundation of a broad-based liberal education, and enhanced by hands-on research and real-world experiences, the academic preparation SIUE students receive equips them to thrive in the global marketplace and make our communities better places to live. Situated on 2,660 acres of beautiful woodland atop the bluffs overlooking the natural beauty of the Mississippi River’s rich bottomland and only a short drive from downtown St. Louis, the SIUE campus is home to a diverse student body of more than 12,500.

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