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Celebrating First Generation Students – Tionna Gardner

Tionna Gardner portrait

Boise native Tionna Gardner embraced the McNair program at Boise State to help elevate her ambitions as a first-generation college student aspiring to become a doctor of psychology.

After being encouraged by advisors in the McNair program to do research related to her field, Gardner launched a survey this semester for Psychology 101 students that she designed to investigate how having a positive relationship with a supportive adult and a perceived sense of belonging to one’s community can contribute to resilience in students who may have grown up in adverse circumstances.

Gardner learned first-hand about students in adverse circumstances by serving in Americorps for two years after high school, helping students in disadvantaged communities build literacy skills.

After returning to Boise and attending the College of Western Idaho, she came to Boise State and researched ways to get involved and find the support she knew she would need to reach her goals while pursing a bachelor’s degree. Finding the McNair program has helped Gardner become a student researcher and prepare her for graduate school.

“Overall the McNair program has enhanced my college experience by giving me the opportunity to engage in different pathways and strengthen skills that I perceived might be weaker in me,” said Gardner. “It helps give me that purpose and helps clarify the reason why I’m in college. It gave me a safe space for self discovery.”

Tionna Gardner with her dad, brother and mom
Tionna Gardner at four years old with her dad LaMarco (left), her brother and mom. LaMarco played football for Boise State in the early 2000’s.

Gardner isn’t the only person in her family who was driven to be a successful college graduate at Boise State – her dad, LaMarco Gardner played football for the Broncos in the early 2000’s, but wasn’t able to finish his degree while being an athlete with two small kids. He returned in 2019 to finish his degree.

After completing her bachelor’s degree in the spring, Gardner will pursue a doctoral degree in psychology and hopes to work with children and families.

Learn more about the McNair program in the Center for Multicultural Educational Opportunities