This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
Deciding to be the FIRST
I am a low-income, first-generation college student. My decision to attend college was calculated and tiring. I always believed that I was destined to make a difference. I grew up in a great town, but thirsted for richer experiences and big opportunities. I believed—and still believe—that college has the potential to elevate people into greater opportunity. So I declared that I would be the FIRST to complete college in my family, despite the vast opposing voices I encountered along the way.
The journey to college was not easy. I navigated the FAFSA independently, walking my mother through the confusing steps after taking hours to educate myself on its intricacies. When I moved onto campus, my entire family invaded the residence hall. It was as if they, too, were moving into my college dorm room.
Taking My First-generation Status to Heart
During my first semester at college, I was known as the extreme party girl. I had my pulse on the city of Boston, and knew each event that was happening. The social elements of life consumed my energy. The residence life staff had my friends and me on their radar, and we were notorious on campus. I remember having to go to a conduct hearing after breaking a residence hall policy. Afterward, as I waited to hear what the consequence would be, the fear of having to go back to my hometown, defeated, entered my mind. What if I get kicked out of school? What if I have thrown it all away? I took this event very seriously, and my non-first-generation peers questioned why I cared so much. That event made me realize that my actions were threatening my goal of completing college: not only were they jeopardizing my chance to obtain a degree; they were threatening my opportunity to create a new legacy for my family. This turn of events realigned and redefined my priorities. I took my first-generation status to heart, and was allowed to stay on campus.
From that point on, I utilized my social ability and aptitude constructively and became a very involved student leader. I just graduated with my master’s degree in May, and my younger sister received her bachelor’s degree in May as well. The legacy lives on and I am so thankful that I was able to be the FIRST. It is quite an honor.