I’m Cynthia and I’m first. Sometimes it is not so much about wanting to be the first in your family, it is about knowing that it is something that you HAVE to do in order to prove people wrong, or make a better example for the kids in your family who come after, or help your family financially, or to expand your world of possibilities. For me, it was all of the above.
Coming from a Salvadoran immigrant family, first generation born in the U.S., and youngest of four children – I had an early understanding of the challenges that people face. My parents worked two jobs, my sisters were teen parents, my brother was a drug addict – I had two cultures and two languages to navigate and low-income realities that made a lot of opportunities seem distant.
Regardless of what your situation is as a first, you probably have your own set of challenges – but rather than letting this be an excuse, embrace your personal story and make it your motivation to move forward. Regardless of the societal labels that you are born into, ANYONE CAN DO IT! Find supportive adults and programs (because they do exist), ask questions, spend that extra time doing research and don’t be afraid to make the leap into college even if you still don’t know “what you want to be when you grow up”. Heck, I’m 30 and still don’t know what I want to be “when I grow up!” (Not a lot of people do!)
College is a step towards getting an economically viable career – it is not as scary as people make it seem – plus, if you hated high school as much as I did, you will see that College is much more interesting and has so much more freedom. As a first, I now have had a chance to see the young ones that came after me helping end the cycle of low-educational attainment in my family. My eldest niece just graduated college and my second niece is in her first year of community college. As a first, I see how much having a college degree and graduate degree has helped my entire family and allowed me to experience people, places and things I never had imagined.
Study hard, get involved in extra curricular activities and be the first. If you didn’t do so well in high school, you can STILL be the first. No matter how long it takes – trust me, you will reap the benefits of the sacrifice and so will your loved ones.
‘Now, move forward cause there is nothing in turning back! Good luck and I look forward to you joining me at the table of firsts that are helping pave the way for future generations to come.