Since my first visit in the third grade, I dreamed of attending University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley).
During my senior year of high school, I was accepted to UC Berkeley, and my dream became my reality. I felt as if I had reached the finish line and could finally breathe.
I quickly realized that this finish line only meant the beginning of another leg in a relay race. High school was my first segment, and college would be my second with many more hurdles to jump over.
My high school, Leadership Public Schools Richmond (LPS), is known for it’s high rate of college acceptances. I always thought that attending LPS would equate to college success. A few weeks into my first semester in college, I began to realize that getting to college was the easy part. Getting through college was going to be a whole different ball game.
After a few weeks of panicking and questioning my decision to attend such a prestigious institution, I was lucky enough to find resources on campus that were tailored to my needs as a student. I began to find spaces where first generation and students of color were able to receive the support we needed ranging from academic counseling to assistance with food.
Even if I didn’t enter the space with a specific need, it was comforting to see familiar faces and have a space to talk about the rigors of Cal.
Many Latinos, especially at Cal, are the first in their families to attend college. I remember being frustrated when I needed help filling out the FAFSA or deciding what classes to take. All of my peers seemed to have college knowledge as a sixth sense, and I was lost trying to find my way.
My parents vocalized their desire to help me out and even attempted to offer what advice they could. However, they had as many questions as I did. Despite my parents not being able to offer me concrete, step-by-step advice, they were able to provide the comfort and motivation I needed to be emotionally stable enough to take the challenge on.
The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics’ resource ¡Gradúate! Financial Aid Guide to Success was essential to helping me navigate the financial aid process and my academic path. It is specifically for Latino students and their families and provides specific resources ranging from undocumented student support to more general advice for Latino students on selecting a college in both English and Spanish.
We deserve the focus of initiatives like this because our experiences often get lost.
I am currently finishing my senior year of college and will be graduating in May. I will be pursuing a career in teaching. I have been fortunate enough to have mentors along the way who have provided the guidance that I needed. Now that I am beginning to enter positions of power, I feel that it is my duty to give back to my community and to provide students with the same guidance and motivation that I sought when I was entering college.
As first-generation Latinos in college, we need to reflect on the fact that it won’t just be us crossing the stage during graduation, it will be our parents, tíos, abuelas, and little siblings doing so too. A win for one of us is a win for all of us, we cannot take that lightly.
The original version of this article can be found at http://lacomadre.org/2016/10/getting-first-generation-latinos-college/