First Generation Warrior

(Illustration by Ethan Hunt)

With the spring 2021 semester coming to an end, our first-generation Stan State students and alumni gave us valuable information for incoming first-generation students arriving for the fall 2021 semester. 

We asked the first-generation warriors how their Stan State experience went. They shared that their college experience came with struggles whether it involved finding the right major, signing up for classes and finding guidance within the university, since they couldn’t ask their parents or siblings. 

Despite their hardships, the students were also able to share their achievements throughout their time at Stan State. With this, they were able to provide valuable pieces of advice that incoming freshmen can benefit from even if they aren’t a first-generation college student. 

Hunter Ginger (junior, Kinesiology), shared his experience as a first-generation college student with the Signal, “Being a first-generation student has prompted me to build my own character and pave my own path without assistance, it has taught me how to be my own self and figure things out on my own.”

Being a first-generation student and not knowing how the college education system works, Ginger went on to voice his struggles reassuring students, “In the end though, I have been able to gain many benefits such as deciding on what I want to do on my lonesome without anyone else persuading me into doing something. I have been able to learn how to do things on my own and I have enjoyed doing just that, and aspire to pass my newfound knowledge down to the next generations within my family.” 

Although some students have to navigate the college experience on their own, there is also nothing wrong with asking for help. Holly Mahnke (Stan State to Chico State Transfer Student, Agricultural Science, and Education), shares her biggest piece of advice for incoming first-generation students, “My biggest piece of advice would be to not be afraid of asking for help. As human beings we fear asking people for anything because we may seem needy, but when it comes to your education ask all the questions you can, because you have an abundant amount of people who can help you! Don’t be discouraged if people don’t seem helpful at first, they may just not be the person you needed, but help IS out there!”

Mahnke shares that a huge struggle of navigating college as a first-generation student is feeling alone, “My parents couldn’t help me and I didn’t want to ask anyone for help, but the benefits far outweighed the struggles. I made friends with older students in my classes who had a lot of helpful tips. I asked professors who I really enjoyed. I finally had the courage to go to some of the offices on campus and before I knew it I was making connections and adding all these resources to my everyday skill set.”

Mahnke shares that it is beneficial to reach out to older students and professors. Another valuable asset students have to reach out to our counselors. Eduardo Estrada (alumni, Business), shares that his best piece of advice for first-generation college students is to take advantage of the help counselors can give you. Estrada shares, “[Counselors] They are a big factor in helping you understand what you need to take and what you don’t, because as freshmen we don’t know what’s going on half the time, especially if you don't have an older sibling to look up to for help. Another thing would be to get involved, whether it's joining a club on campus or getting an internship. It helps every little bit when it comes to job searching in the future.”

Even though there are inevitable struggles that come with being a first-generation student, our Stan State warriors share that these struggles come with great satisfaction. Leydy Valdez (junior, Psychology), shares with us, “Although I struggled with not understanding how college worked at first and I wasn’t able to seek guidance from my family, I know my family is proud that I am earning a degree in a field that I love and can not wait to work in soon!”

Feeling the gratification of finally earning your degree is something that is special to these Stan State warriors. As first-generation college students, making your family proud is what makes all the hardships worth it. Keily Cruz (senior, Psychology), shares that the benefits of being a first-generation college student and making your family proud outweighs all the negative, “The benefits of being a first-generation student are immense. I’ve succeeded in areas I thought I’d fail and I’ve grown to understand that I’m a lot tougher than I think. I’m reaching my goals and I get to see how proud my family is of me for achieving these accomplishments.” 

For Alex Reyes (Columbia College Transfer Student, Business Marketing), his family is what inspires him to pursue his dreams and make them a reality, considering he is a child of first-generation immigrants. Reyes shares, “I think being a first generation student has given me more motivation to make sure I become successful. I say this because my parents are first-generation immigrants from Mexico, they became citizens and went straight to work and were not able to attend in order to show my family that their hard work to live here, and to see the looks on their faces when I am able to walk the stage and obtain my degree.” 

Izzy Valero (junior, Business Administration) leaves with us the most valuable piece of advice any college student can benefit from, “Just remember, getting your degree is not a sprint to the finish line, it's more like a marathon. Go at your own pace.”

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