Twin sisters Cara and Tara Johnson grew up on a farm in Berea, Kentucky. The sisters are the first in their family to attend college and are grateful for the chance they’ve been given. “I saw firsthand how hard my parents worked and the long hours they put in to support my sister and me," explained Tara. I want to be able to do the same for my family some day and to make a better life for myself."
Cara said, “EKU is more than just a place to get a degree.” Success in college is also “the mark one makes on this campus and on one’s peers while here. Academics are first priority in college, but it’s also a time to develop networking skills, learn to interact with people and make memories."
What does EKU mean to you?
Cara: To me, Eastern means a time in my life where I’ve learned more about myself as a person, what career path I am destined to follow and a better promise for the future.
Tara: EKU to me means endless opportunities and experiences. It's like a fresh start, a place for me to better myself and further my education so that I can enter a competitive workforce and pursue my career goals.
What was your first day at EKU like?
Cara: My first day at Eastern was exciting and new. I graduated from a small high school, so walking around an unfamiliar campus with unfamiliar faces was overwhelming. I remember feeling so nervous for my first class, and then by the time I was seated in my second class I felt like I had been doing this for years.
I had an awesome experience as a freshman at Eastern. At first, I was concerned about how I would make friends and that gave me anxiety, but then I realized it's easy; all you have to do is put yourself out there and get involved.
Who is your favorite faculty or staff member?
Cara: Tammy Cornett, human resources coordinator responsible for Healthy You! at EKU, is my favorite because she is the most enthusiastic person I know and has granted me so many opportunities here at Eastern.
Tara: My favorite facility member is Dr. Schwartz in the Public Health department. I love Dr. Schwartz because she is so invested in her students and truly loves the public health field. She is a big reason I chose to pursue a degree in Public Health.
What are some unique opportunities you have had at EKU?
Tara: I work in Campus Recreation which has given me so many opportunities to work with various groups across campus and meet so many faculty and staff members. I also am involved in Greek Life and that has given me the opportunity to participate in service opportunities not only on campus but also in the community.
Are there any services you would like to see for First-Generation College students?
Cara: I feel that because I was a first-generation college student I didn't know what to expect my first day. I was distressed about the silliest things, like whether or not to carry my backpack the first day, all because I literally had no previous knowledge as to what college would be like.
Is there anything you wish you’d known before you started college?
Cara: One thing I wish I had known as an incoming freshman is that downtime is rare in college. You may think you have so much extra time the first few weeks, but exams and assignments tend to all fall in the same week. It's important to prioritize and work on assignments that are most relevant at the time to prevent a meltdown in the library the week everything is due.
What has made your EKU experience a positive one?
Tara: The professors and staff who give positive feedback, offer to help, and who have invested so much time and energy into each student. They stand out to me and really motivate me to do well and work hard in my classes and in all realms of my college experience.
What advice would you give to first-generation college students?
Cara: Try your best. You may feel like you're the only one walking around campus who doesn't have it all together, but I can promise you that's every college student. As a first-generation college student, my greatest obstacle was that I felt like I never knew the next step or what lay ahead because my parents didn't attend college, but that's okay. There are many first-generation college students on campus, and they're not the only ones who struggle with the transition to college. If you ever feel overwhelmed ask for help, whether it's from your professor, a tutor or even a classmate. It's important to ask for help, and to do it early on.
What are your plans for the future?
Cara: After graduating with my bachelor’s degree in public health, I plan on getting my master’s in public health at EKU. I hope to work for a company or university and direct a wellness program in an effort to lower their insurance rates by rewarding employees with incentives for healthy and preventive behavior.
Tara: I plan to get my master’s degree, hopefully at EKU. After I get my degree, I would like to work at a health department or another health care setting to educate people on how to live healthier, longer lives and to give people the tools to raise healthier families.
When you graduate, what will you miss the most?
Cara: What I will miss most will be the community-like atmosphere here. I don’t think there’s anything else like it, because Eastern is its own community. It’s been my home during my time here, and I feel like we’re all one big family working toward the same goal of success during our time here.
Tara: Although I am excited for the future, I will definitely miss EKU. The thing I will miss most about EKU is my EKU family and sense of community that EKU offers. EKU feels truly like home as cheesy as that may sound!