SAN ANTONIO -- Cassie Reyes never pictured herself at Texas A&M University San Antonio.

"Nobody in my family has really attended a university," she said.

But when she became a mother at 16-years-old, Reyes said that all changed.

"[My daughter] is the reason I'm coming to college. She's the reason I do everything," Reyes said.

Now, she's on her way to becoming an early childhood teacher.

Joanna Martinez didn't have an easy path to college either. Her family moved from Mexico to Texas when she was a kid.

"I didn't know any English and I hated it so much," Martinez said.

She was a quick learner and by the time she graduated high school, she earned enough scholarship money to attend A&M San Antonio on a free ride.

"I've always had a passion for education, especially because my parents put it in my head that you have to study and you have to succeed," Martinez said.

TAMUSA's assistant vice president for academic affairs, Holly Verhasselt, said there are about 3,500 first-generation students at the school.

"A person with a bachelor’s degree will earn about $20,000 more than a person who graduated from college," Verhasselt said.

When those students graduate, it could mean big things for our local economy.

"3,500 students times $20,000 a year, that's a big contribution," Verhasselt said.