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April 23, 2014

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Where I Stand:

Believing in the value of a college education

Every summer, Brian Greenspun turns over his Where I Stand column to guest writers for several weeks. Today’s guest is Kevin Page, chairman of the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents.

As a teenager, attending college was always a part of my plan. Obtaining a college education was neither a long-standing tradition in my family nor a subject that was discussed. Yet, I was motivated to work hard throughout high school because I knew how my life might be without a college degree.

Throughout my adolescence, I watched my father come home nightly smelling like smoke and completely exhausted. After working the grueling shifts of a New York City firefighter, he came home, took a shower, and turned right around so he could go to his second job at the bank in Brooklyn. My mother not only maintained the household while my father worked both jobs, but she was also a bus matron who served the needs of disabled children on their way to and from school.

College was never an option for either of my parents, because times were tough when they were growing up. My mother was expected to take care of her five siblings during times of war and uncertainty. She did not even have the chance to finish grammar school because her family came first.

Nevertheless, my parents recognized the importance of a college education and worked tirelessly to ensure a better future for their three kids.

As a first-generation college student, I proudly attended and graduated from UNLV with my twin brother, Paul. I graduated with a bachelor of science in business administration in finance and a master’s in business administration. It was not an easy road, but I learned, “There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs.”

My brother and I entered college knowing nothing. We struggled to work through the stresses on our own, since our parents did not understand the challenges we faced. As a freshman at UNLV, I never would have imagined I would be the chairman of the Nevada Board of Regents in 2013.

Technology, resources, and times have definitely changed since I attended college; however the benefits still remain the same. My 18-year-old daughter, Lauren, will be a college freshman this fall. Many of her classmates chose to pursue a job right out of high school rather than continue their education.

I cannot stress to her enough the value of four more years of education. Las Vegas is a community with many opportunities for kids to make decent money right out of high school. Being a valet or waitress might be a “great gig” for a young adult, but are these young men and women prepared to work these jobs for the rest of their lives? I doubt it. Without a college degree, these kids are limiting themselves. A college degree not only opens doors for career opportunities, but it helps young men and women prepare for future personal and professional life responsibilities.

Presently, I am honored to serve as the chairman for the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents and work for Wells Capital Management as a managing director. Education is something that can never be taken away from you. As much as I despise the word “impossible,” it would have been “impossible” to be where I am today without a college education. I accepted the challenge of becoming a first-generation college student and am very fortunate my parents put forth so much effort while I was young to instill in me the importance of continuing my education beyond high school.

Just because someone isn’t familiar with the college process does not mean he cannot attend and ultimately succeed. Now is the time to jump in and become immersed in college. Merely taking a class or two can ignite a spark and illuminate a pathway to an outstanding future. There are more first-generation college students enrolling each year, and now is the time to join them. Nevada is desperately in the need of an educated workforce, a goal which can only be accomplished one student at a time.

Regent Kevin Page is the chairman of the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

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