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First-Generation Student Spotlight: Janette Muñoz

Photo of Janette Munoz by Ben Krain.
UA Little Rock nursing major and First-generation student Janette Munoz. Photo by Ben Krain.

Janette Muñoz, a senior double majoring in nursing and Spanish, is fulfilling a dream for herself and her parents by being the first in her family to attend college.

“My parents in Mexico couldn’t receive a proper education. My grandparents couldn’t afford to send them to school,” Muñoz said. “I know the reason they came to the U.S. is to give me a better opportunity to be a better person, and if I can do that I will make them so proud.”

After she graduates in the spring 2022 semester, Muñoz hopes to help mothers bring their children into the world.

“I’m hoping to get a job here in Arkansas, and I want to be an OB/GYN nurse,” Muñoz said. “I want to get a job working with babies and mothers. I love babies. Growing up, I always cared for my siblings. It’s like I was their second mother. Bringing a baby into this world is an awesome experience, and I want to help make that happen.”

After graduating from Little Rock Central High School in 2017, Muñoz was looking for a college that is close to home and affordable.

“UA Little Rock is close to home, and I didn’t want to be far away from my parents. This is the family that I knew and grew up with, and I didn’t want to leave them behind,” she said. “UA Little Rock has definitely given me the resources to be successful. I remember thinking about how I would afford college before I applied. UA Little Rock gave me a lot of scholarships to apply for, and the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps (CLC) is what determined me going here. I’m working with UA Little Rock TRIO, and these are some of the best co-workers I’ve had the experience of working with. The staff is very friendly, and I’m not afraid to ask for help if I need it.”

Photo of Janette Munoz by Ben Krain.
Photo of Janette Munoz by Ben Krain.

At UA Little Rock, Muñoz also volunteers with UA Little Rock Trojan Food Pantry and the Little Rock Marathon. She is a member of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and is in the middle of helping plan LULAC’s Drive for the Homeless. During the week of Thanksgiving, LULAC members hand out gift baskets with coats, blankets, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes, and other hygiene products to the homeless.

Muñoz was on track to graduate with a nursing degree in spring, but an unexpected medical emergency in March delayed her plans.

“I got a sharp sudden pain on my abdomen,” Muñoz said. “It kept getting worse. I knew it was not normal. I called my mom, and she suggested I drink some soothing tea. I remember not even being able to drink the tea. I went to the emergency room, and they thought it was my appendix. They noticed I had an ovarian cyst wrapped around a fallopian tube. I had to have surgery.”

Muñoz was in recovery for weeks and needs to retake a course that is offered once a year. She feels that every challenge can come with a silver lining. She took advantage of her extra time at UA Little Rock and is now pursuing a second bachelor’s degree in Spanish.

“I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason,” she said.

Inspired by her own experience as a first-generation student, Muñoz is helping other Spanish-speaking families navigate the education system. She is an intern and volunteer with the Unidos Se Puede program with Mamás Unidas to connect families and volunteers.

“Spanish families sometimes can’t help their kids because of a language and technology barrier that prevents them from communicating with their kids’ teachers,” Muñoz said. “I help set up volunteers for parents when they need translators for a parent-teacher meeting or a tutor for their kids.”