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A group of college students at graduation day are standing in their caps and gowns, in profile, while one student is turned toward the camera and smiling.

First Generation

education graduation resilience students of color Oct 24, 2023

Written by a CSUCI student.

Being a first-generation student is something to take pride in. Being the first person in your family to obtain a higher degree such as a bachelor’s or master’s is phenomenal. I never thought I would go to college after graduating high school. I had decided I wanted to work, and I wanted something quick that would make me money. I didn’t go to school for my first year after high school; instead, I went to a trade school to be a medical assistant. After further research and spending $4,000 to attend, I realized how little they get paid, and I was not going to settle for something I was not going to be happy with. I figured I could be a nurse, but after looking at the prerequisites, I realized it was not for me. I did not know what I wanted to do with my life, plus I am the oldest of my siblings, so I didn’t have any guidance besides my school counselors. I thought to myself, if I don’t know what I want to do, I should choose something that is bound to get me a job regardless, which is how I landed on sociology. I also wanted something where I could help families and sociology was the closest thing I could get to, and to this day I do not regret my decision in majoring in sociology.

As a first-generation student, I had to learn how to maneuver everything by myself. When I didn’t know something, I had to figure out who I could speak to, where I could go, deadlines, and FAFSA troubles, and I had to make all the moves on my own. Now I am very experienced, and I can help my siblings, my younger cousins, or anyone really. Being first-gen in a family where my parents migrated from Mexico is an honor because it just proves that the sacrifices they made for us to have a better future paid off. I will always say that if it wasn’t for my parents, I probably wouldn't have gotten this far. When I was younger my parents always had me translate for them when we were at restaurants, doctor’s offices, or just speaking to people, and now I am able do that for them but also help them with what to say. I can now speak up for my parents or any person who is only Spanish speaking and I am educated enough to know how to respond.

It has been very stressful to obtain my bachelor’s degree, mainly because I kept taking time off to work and save money. Now, I can work with a higher degree, and maybe even further my education. I really want to get my master’s but I’m also getting older, and my partner and I would love to start looking at homes and start a family, so I am not sure right now what to do. The amazing thing about education is that it is always there for you when you are ready, and it will always pay you back in success no matter what.

Education will always better a person. There are people who say you don’t need an education to get a job and although that may be true, a degree gets you respect, a title, and a career, and people just admire you more when you’re educated. This is something that took me a while to understand. I always just went to school because my parents wanted me to, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized it’s about being educated and having knowledge about certain concepts that others may not have the opportunity to ever learn. I am very privileged to have the opportunity to attend school in the U.S. and I am so grateful that I have the family that I do who supports me no matter what.