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Marquette students start business to help other first generation students manage costs


Whether it’s signing up for classes, managing school work or adjusting to living independently, the transition to college can be hard for any student. But for first generation students this transition can be even more difficult — especially when you consider the financial burden that comes with higher education.

After discovering the high cost of textbooks, two first generation Marquette students, Julie Alemán and Wendy Pérez, joined together to provide textbooks free of cost for first generation students. It's called Community. Books. YOU., a non-profit business that seeks to make the first generation student experience easier and more affordable.

“In December 2020, I just told Wendy I have this idea, do you think that we can work on this together since you are majoring in business…I knew that she was going to be the other half of Community. Books. YOU.,” says Alemán.

Since starting the project, Community. Books. YOU. has evolved into being a fully functional non-profit organization that is now under Marquette University’s umbrella.

“Being a student and trying to run this non-profit business, just balancing it all, it was challenging,” says Pérez. “We really had to adapt quickly because we didn’t think it was going to scale up this quick.”

Alemán describes the unique challenges that she faced when arriving at Marquette that inspired her to start the business.

“When I arrived here to Milwaukee I barely knew English and I barely knew about anything because I was the first one going to a college, I didn’t know anything about financial aid, resources, or help so it was a lot,” says Alemán.

With the power of optimism and a desire to inspire others Alemán was able to adapt at Marquette and came up with the idea for Community. Books. YOU. She and Pérez submitted the idea for Marquette’s Brewed Ideas Challenge, an annual Shark-Tank style competition that offers seed money for budding entrepreneurs, and they took first place.

“It’s nice that we got the prize and the money but I think also a good thing that comes with winning is being able to inspire other people,” says Pérez.

When asked about what lies ahead, both girls say that expanding is an immediate priority and adding more staff. Pérez says she hopes the idea of Community. Books. YOU. can move to other campuses and help more first-generation students like themselves.

Beck Andrew Salgado was a producer with Lake Effect.
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