As a first-generation college student from Waupaca, Ripon College sophomore Dakota Marlega has big dreams of where she wants her life to go. However, she always knew she would need assistance to get there. The Wisconsin Grant is part of her financial aid package, which is helping her along her way.
“I’ve always loved education and learning, and I knew I wanted to be able to give back to other people and help other people,” she says. Dakota plans to become a social worker, and getting an undergraduate degree as well as a post-graduate degree is key to that ambition.
Neither of her parents graduated from college, and only one is working. “So I knew right out of the gate that I would have to pay for college by myself,” she says. “College is expensive, no matter where you go. It’s daunting and sometimes a deterrent when you see those numbers.”
The Wisconsin Grant is a financial source that doesn’t have to be repaid, “and it’s lessening the financial burden that so many college students experience,” she says.
The social mobility aspect of getting higher education “is huge” for Dakota, she says, and she is embracing all the different opportunities that come her way. She is majoring in communication and theatre and is also studying Spanish at Ripon College. She works as an intern for the Office of Marketing and Communications and as an assistant in the Department of Communication. She recently interned for Living Room Conversations, an organization promoting civil discourse via structured conversations.
This semester, Dakota is participating in her third Ripon College theatre department show, engaging in the Presidential Leadership Program, serving as the vice president of a civic engagement student organization, and contributing as a member of the Center for Politics and the People Student Advisory Board.
She also is a recipient of the 2018 Wisconsin Women in Government scholarship, awarded to undergraduate women who wish to pursue careers in public service, public administration, or governmental affairs.
“All of my areas of study can be boiled down to my desire to foster more conversation in society, whether it be through communication, performing, or speaking across language barriers,” she says.
“At Ripon College, I’m able to participate in things I care deeply about that don’t necessarily pertain to my areas of study. Some of these may be unconventional for what I’d like to go into, but it all boils down to connecting with other people. It is giving me a different perspective in the field of social work and the opportunity to branch out beyond the traditional confines of social work as a field.”
Her success, she says, stems from “the encouragement from great educators and supportive family members. My future lies in helping others, just as my past was dependent upon others helping me.”