Hannah Holte, a first-generation college student at Husson University who graduated from Camden Hills Regional High School, is putting herself through college without financial assistance from her parents.

She is on track to graduate in May with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, and plans to pursue a law degree. Holte, who is from Camden, has already been accepted at five law schools, with one offering a full scholarship.

“I’m the first generation in my family to go to college, so I had to learn about the financial aid process on my own,” Holte said. "My parents didn’t have the financial means to help pay for college – not even with books."

At first, Holte had no idea how she was going to be able to pay for her education, according to a Husson University press release.

"When I reached out to Husson, they made the process simple," she said. While a student there, she has kept in touch with the financial aid counselors, who are "extremely helpful and willing to answer my questions."

“Fortunately for me, Husson is affordable and they gave me a really good financial aid package, which I’m extremely grateful for," she said.

Holte’s personal story is one of success through hard work and determination, not unlike those of many Americans whose families are relatively recent arrivals.

Her grandparents on her mother’s side of the family came to the United States from Germany and overstayed their visas. That made Holte’s mother an illegal alien from the time she was 13 years old until she became a U.S. citizen at age 23. Holte’s mother had to drop out of high school and get a job to help support her family. At the time her mother became a U.S. citizen, Holte’s father was already a citizen. When Holte was in high school, her mother studied for and and earned her GED.

Despite her family's financial circumstances, Holte dreamed of going to college. “For a long time, I wanted to be a psychologist. There was one teacher at CHRHS who really inspired me. He motivated me to apply and get accepted to Husson."

When Holte first entered Husson four years ago, she took a variety of classes and learned that she had a passion for criminal justice. She added criminal justice classes to her course of study, which led to a decision to major in this area.

“I enjoyed the classes in police operations, criminology and criminal law," Holte said. "They gave me a well-rounded understanding of why people commit crimes, the legal system and how it operates."

Holte isn’t sure what kind of law she will pursue after law school. She currently has a paid internship with Penquis Family Law in Bangor. “The attorney I work for takes me to court, where I get to watch divorces and custody issues get resolved. While I hadn’t previously considered family law, it’s definitely on my radar. It’s a type of law where you can help people in high-stress situations."

She is also interested in criminal law and immigration law. "Helping people who are seeking asylum and U.S. citizenship would also be interesting," Holte said. "I care about social justice, and I want to help people who have been treated unfairly.”

Holte’s academic accomplishments have had a positive effect on her family. “My ability to get an undergraduate college education changed the goals my mom and my brother set for themselves,” she said. “My mom is planning on signing up for a phlebotomy course at a community college, just because she’s interested in the medical field. Who knows? This could be the beginning of a whole new career for her.”

To pursue her passion, Holte applied to eight law schools. While she is still waiting to hear from some of her schools, she has already been accepted at five. Some of the schools are offering financial-aid packages that will pay for most or all of her tuition. Holte expects to decide which law school to attend in April.

Assistant Editor Susan Mustapich contributed to this story.