Jake Hamilton: First-generation college student amps up campus life

Erica Martin

Jake Hamilton is a first-generation college student who made it to college against all odds.

Coming from a family with no higher education background, he still pursued his dreams of going to college with their support. He graduated high school in Sebring, Fla., and moved to Panama City to study business administration.

Pushing himself to achieve, he has had a successful academic career, graduating with a 4.48 GPA and the title of State Champion Percussionist.

Hamilton said he was driven to succeed by what he observed around him.

“What drove me to take the college path was purely peer-pressure and family support,” he said. “Seeing my friends succeed academically drove me to want and be like them.” 

He was accepted to the University of Central Florida and was offered academic scholarships from Pennsylvania State University, Stetson University and Rollins College.

Hamilton said he chose FSU Panama City because of the campus’s Business Administration program and smaller class sizes. “They appeal to me because I can really focus and connect with my professors,” he said.

Jacob Hamilton with car image

Hamilton also works on campus in Contracts and Grants doing ledger reconciliations, which gives him insight on the accounting aspect of his major.

“Jake’s ‘go getter’ attitude will take him far with his college education,” said Hamilton’s supervisor Melissa Carlton, who also is an instructor at FSU Panama City. “He is a joy to be around and a pleasure to have as an office assistant.”

Hamilton’s ambition also has affected his family.

“My parents have been nothing short of supportive,” he said. “They are glad I have made it to college and believe it is helping me become a more diverse and educated person. I feel college is teaching me valuable lessons for my future endeavors that I would not have received in high school.”

During his time at FSU Panama City, Hamilton has helped influence students to get involved in events and organizations. When he started summer classes, Hamilton realized FSU Panama City did not offer the traditional college experience. Hoping for more student life on campus, he jumped in to create new student organizations and activities.

“I saw that there was a need for events on this campus the first day of the summer c semester in 2014,” he said. “I immediately took actions and attended Student Government meetings and spoke to various people to try and get some activities rolling.”

The goals that Jake sought after eventually came true. He started the cooking club, opened the eyes of the Student Government, professors and school officials, and sparked life into the school. New events became available, and students suddenly became more active and willing to participate in organizations.

In his ENC1102 class, Hamilton wrote a research paper on the lack of student involvement and met with Associate Dean Gary Bliss to discuss ways to improve the student life on campus. The paper was written helped initiate changes, Hamilton said, which improved the student experience at FSU Panama City.

“It was Jake’s energy and enthusiasm that inspired us to start many of the new activities we have on our campus including game night, dance night, Project Runway and the Cooking Club,” English instructor Milinda Stephenson, Ph.D.,  said. “I love students who don’t just see a problem, and are willing to offer a solution. Jake is an excellent role model for incoming freshman. I hope they all have his enthusiasm.

After college, Hamilton said he plans to start a successful career in the business field, as well as to get married and have kids. He said he thinks college has been a fruitful experience and will have positive effects on his future. He should graduate in 2018.

“Advice I would give to my children would be to go to college,” he said. “It makes you a well-rounded individual, and the experience as a whole is great and a once in life time thing.”