Claire Babineaux-Fontenot was the first in her family to graduate from college. Now, she's the CEO of Feeding America.
Dylan Hebert, ’20, is using his Secondary Education and Teaching degree to pursue a career in school counseling — a decision he made after his high school teachers encouraged him to be the first in his family to attend college.
“I’m a first-generation college student, and I really didn’t have that many plans to pursue college. It wasn’t a big deal for me,” he remembered.
“When I could really see myself doing this was when my teachers would help me in high school. I was going through some difficult things in high school — with family and whatnot — and my teachers were the adult figures I could talk to about these things and feel heard and cared for.”
Once he enrolled at UL Lafayette, Dylan took full advantage of everything the University had to offer.
He earned his education degree with a minor in history, held a job as a student worker in University Housing, was involved in multiple student organizations, and was even named to the Homecoming Court — all despite having his reservations about getting involved.
“I went to the late orientation which is, like, two days before school starts. I didn’t have an overwhelming energy to be a part of it, but really found myself connected with a lot of the people who were on Student Orientation Staff there,” he said. “They were some super friendly people, enjoyable, and they just really cared about the University. I got involved with the Student Orientation Staff and that really kept me around.
“That was the starting point of my love and wanting to stay at UL Lafayette.”
Learning by helping others
Dylan discovered his interest in education through the Art Without Lines Program, which paired seniors with disabled students to create art.
That experience prompted Dylan to pursue his special education certificate alongside his education degree, and to join organizations on campus that support students with disabilities. He was a member of the Beacon Club and a mentor with the LIFE Program for two years.
Being involved on campus helped Dylan sharpen the skills he’ll need in graduate school and throughout his career in education.
“You have to be an advocate for others, you have to be a leader, and I think I’ve gotten a lot of that from my organizations and from my surroundings,” he said. “UL Lafayette is all about diversity and inclusion, and being a part of it has helped out my empathy a lot. I’m leaps and bounds from where I was, but I have a way to go.
“That’s my goal as a teacher or educator: I want to make sure that I’m hearing different perspectives and getting to know people — while being the help they need.”
Learning by doing
When you’re an education major at UL Lafayette, “you get the hands-on experience while you’re learning,” Dylan said. Starting the first semester, all education majors get experience in local classrooms. They start with observing and work up to a Teacher Residency, which includes teaching alongside a Mentor Teacher for two semesters.
“The College of Education will make sure you are connected with what you want to do,” he said. “While, at the same time, they’re preparing you with the classroom management and lesson plans — it prepares you in so many different ways. You get the hands-on experience while you’re learning.”
During his Teacher Residency, Dylan worked with his Mentor Teacher to develop lesson plans and activities, attended staff meetings and inservices, and learned everything that teachers do in and out of the classroom.
In the second semester of his Teacher Residency, Dylan led his own action research project to improve sixth graders’ mental and emotional health. That project reaffirmed his passion for counseling students.
“I’m being who I needed at that age,” he said. “A lot of the teachers I had in high school were people I needed at that time. I wanted to be that for my students.”