First-Generation UMKC Student Forges Her Own Path

Hannah Leyva will not allow other’s expectations to define her

Hannah Leyva
Anticipated graduation year: Undetermined
UMKC degree program: University College (undecided/exploratory)
Hometown: Kansas City, Kansas

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Hannah Leyva started her UMKC journey in 2020. A first-generation Honors Program college student, she felt a lot of pressure to go down a specific path: a biology major on a pre-medicine track.

“I came to UMKC with a set plan in mind, but it was not a reflection of my strengths or interests,” Leyva said. “My previous career goals were based around others’ expectations of me and not what I expected from myself.”


This year, Leyva is slowing down and attending the university as an undecided major. It allows her to explore her interests and ensure that her career will be one of her own making. However, this path has its fair share of struggles as well.

“The overall challenge of being undecided on your major has to do with the generalized stigma of not having your entire life planned out,” Leyva said. “The entire notion of knowing who you are and what you want to do straight out of high school is rather daunting. I think that part of going to school is learning that there is more than one way to achieve your goals, and that success is not exclusively found in a traditional path.”

"The University College is helping me determine my career goals and academic interests based on what suits me and not anyone else." - Hannah Leyva

The path less traveled is not a path one has to travel alone. Leyva has found support from students with similar life experiences as a member of the Latinx Student Union (LSU) executive board. She hopes to continue this connection by establishing a book club through the LSU.


“We are made up of first-generation students and are passionate about making a better future not only for ourselves and our families but for our community,” she said. “Listening to them talk about their stories and the obstacles they have overcome to get where they are today, reminds me that I am not alone and to keep going.”

Leyva says she has also gotten similar support from faculty and staff at UMKC as well.

“Choosing to be in the University College is helping me determine my career goals and academic interests based on what suits me and not anyone else,” Leyva said. “The team there is specialized to work with students who are uncertain about their majors and or careers. So, it is really refreshing consulting someone who actually knows how to help you.”

"I chose UMKC for the small community feel of the campus."

While she is not completely sure what her future holds, Leyva knows she is better off with this opportunity to go to school. She is a KC Scholar and a Hispanic Development Fund Scholarship recipient, which she says are a huge part of her success here at UMKC. Beyond that, she says her family and their cultural background have helped shape who she is today


“My parents are immigrants, and they have always motivated me to do well in school,” she said. “The value of education for me is immeasurable, and I really am doing this for my family,  who has not had the opportunity or privilege of pursuing higher education.”

More about Hannah:
Why did you choose UMKC?

I chose UMKC for the small community feel of the campus. It is a lot more common to run into someone you know, which really made me feel more at home. I also chose UMKC for the affordability. I was fortunate enough to receive a few scholarships through the university which made UMKC more accessible.

What is one word that best describes you and why?

I would consider myself a caring person. Much of the work I have done is in the social realm, not because I am extroverted, but because I find happiness in helping others.

What’s your favorite social media channel?

I’m not sure if I have a favorite, but I do spend a lot of time scrolling through TikTok (like a true Gen Z kid).

What’s your favorite spot to eat in Kansas City?

I love Friend’s Sushi on 39th, and it’s close to a lot of cute shops so you can walk around and make a day out of it.

What’s your favorite spot on campus?
My favorite spot to hang out on campus is patio on the top floor of the Student Union. It has a really great view of the Nelson, and it’s a great place to hang out with friends or take a break from studying indoors.

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