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Cal Poly graduate shares journey as a father navigating college

Waking up at 5 in the morning each day became normal for Cal Poly student James Carlson.

Carlson isn’t your typical Mustang, “When I came here it was kind of a shock, being in classes with people who have just got out of high school,” said Carlson.

He’s a 26 and a first generation college student. Most importantly has a fiancee and a two year-old daughter, named Piper, who inspire him.

“My time being on campus was in the end to support them, that’s all that mattered,” Carlson said.

The commute from Guadalupe to campus, and the 10 to 12 hours of studying on some days was a daily sacrifice for his family. “I was doing it so that I knew that when I was able to finish classes, I could come just come straight home and be with my fiancee and my daughter,” said Carlson.

As a Geology major, Carlson says he spent a lot of time away from home and missed moments of Piper growing up.

Despite the long nights in the lab, Carlson wanted to learn even more and told a Cal Poly professor, “I want to be more involved in Geology and whatever was going on at Cal Poly,” said Carlson.

That led to a summer research fellowship, and after months of collecting and processing data, his research and report was accepted by the United States Geological Survey and included in their own model.

“Just showed that everything that I was doing up to that point was actually paying off,” Carlson said.

As he gets ready to walk across the graduation stage, Carlson says it is “pretty bittersweet” but he wants to inspire others to follow their dream no matter the difficulty.

“Having a kid, coming to school, working, it’s a lot of stuff to balance but as long as you keep moving forward, you’ll get there in the end,” Carlson said.

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