Don’t Leave us in the Shadows

Felix Contreras-CastroI learned from the Summit that first-generation students come from many different backgrounds and carry many types of experiences — but we all share one thing in common, and that’s obtaining a four-year degree.

However, I believe one key element that is often overlooked is students who started at community colleges. Most community college students are in fact first-gen students. Why so? Well, it’s just more feasible economically and emotionally for us to attain an Associates degree, rather than to jump straight into a four-year institution.

Not one Summit speaker or facilitator emphasized the struggle of a first-gen community college student. I know we transfer students were at the Summit.

In every session that I participated in, I made sure everyone knew we were there. Why? Because it is discouraging to be part of a group that is often left in the shadows. I often found myself in the position of answering questions that community college students asked, because the panelists or facilitators could not relate to them. This is not their fault, but the lack of representation could be disappointing to a student who is seeking help to further their education. While the First-Gen Summit was a phenomenal opportunity, it should improve on having representation of all first-gen students, regardless of the institution they attend.

When I did speak on the difficulties of being a first-gen, immigrant transfer student, other students nodded their heads in agreement with what I was trying to portray. I found it incredible that many of these scholars have accomplished feats similar to my own. I learned that we have an amazing gift to synthesize our thoughts and feelings in order to empathize each other.

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