Tears roll down my cheeks as it all hits me at once. I am a first-generation college graduate. Letting that fact sink in is something I hadn’t allowed myself to do yet.
I will be graduating from a university I had only dreamed of attending, and earning a degree in a field I never knew I would love so much. But mi camino al exito, “my path to success,” was not an easy one.
As the eldest daughter of a Hispanic household, a lot of responsibility and pressure is put on my shoulders. Some of which I put on myself. A common feeling among first-generation students.
Making sure I am doing my best in classes, putting effort into the work I do, keeping up with family and friends, and setting goals for the future are the pressures I put on myself while attending school.
Even writing this, I put pressure on myself to make sure I’m a voice that represents all first-generation graduates while still remembering to be true to myself.
It seems like it’s a never-ending venture of growing and learning how to do things to make yourself and others proud, especially your family. But reaching these big milestones like graduating from a university does lift a lot of that pressure and serves as a reminder of why you are working so hard.
I have been fortunate that my family has been one of my biggest support systems throughout my college education. They encouraged me to attend community college, giving me the confidence to pursue a degree in journalism, and would check in on me when I would put too much on my plate.
Even though my parents were there to support me, I had to learn to do things they have never seen before and solve difficult problems on my own.
Figuring out how to apply for FAFSA, paying my tuition, and making sure that I met all my requirements to be sure I graduated on time are a few of the ways I had to figure out academia on my own.
Taking up jobs so I have enough of my own money to maintain myself. Taking care of my mental health. Creating other support systems to help me navigate university life and my future career. All that and more I have accomplished on my own merit.
I’ve had struggles uniquely my own, but I want to acknowledge that I have also been privileged to be able to attend a university without other worries that other first-generation students may have. Especially my friends who are DACA recipients.
Fortunately, Long Beach State is a very inclusive university. The 2021 ranking in Hispanic Outlook on Education magazine, named CSULB “a national leader in the number of degrees awarded to Hispanic students,” according to university officials.
Inclusivity made it easy to find a group of friends who understood the worth ethic and pressures of being a first-generation student comes with. I have made long-lasting friends and I can’t wait to see what they all do in the near future.
Being proud of my colleagues also reminds me to be proud of myself right alongside them. Even if others see being a first-generation graduate as a label given without any worth, I give it meaning.
The person who gave it their all and is proud to say they come from a Hispanic home, who embraces their culture and will continue to do so because it is something that I am very proud of.
My mother always told me that no matter what happens in life, the one thing no one can ever take away from you is your education, and I’m glad I’ve learned so much and will soon have the diploma in my hands that proves I did so.
To all the 2022 graduates who are first-generation students to ever graduate from a university in the U.S., I know your family and friends are proud of you, I’m proud of you. I hope you are proud of yourself too. I can’t wait to see how we all make an impact on the world.