Last month, in the midst of so many unexpected things happening in Boston, I unexpectedly found myself turning my story as a first-generation student into a poem. It was at Class Action’s first summit where students discussed issues of low-income, working class and first generation students.
I had the honor to work with Adj Marshall, Class Action’s First Generation College Student Program Coordinator to plan Class Action’s first summit. All day, there seemed to be a trending topic: storytelling. From our keynote, Dr. Jane Van Galen, to the ‘Telling Our Group’s Story Workshop’ led by Lauren and Lily (colleagues of Adj), the summit stressed the importance for us to tell our stories, and showed us how we could document them in many ways. Why, if we don’t tell our stories, who will?
I heard stories from our own Class Action bloggers and from people that Dr. Van Galen worked with to make mixed media to tell their stories. Lauren and Lily shared with us the “Where I am From” poem by George Ella Leon, and they actually had us do an exercise where students could share a bit of their story. I was inspired to do something similar, so this is “Where I am From” by Ahalia Persaud about being a first-generation college student:
I am from the photos on the refrigerator,
cardboard caps and polyester gowns.
I am from the home where no one has received a degree, not even me, but the thought of almost being there.
I am from the bamboo tree,
that stands so tall, which reminds me of myself –
Turning heads and breaking hearts.
I am from school and home,
from Mom and Dad who were my first teachers.
I’m from do your homework
and then you can play.
I’m from education is key
and everything else comes after.
I’m from superstitious beliefs,
like fruits and vegetables of knowledge (that I don’t really eat, but I’m smart anyway).
From the grandparents who weren’t able to send their children to school,
the parents who gave my siblings and I the opportunity to do so.
In the closet is a plastic container
filled with certificates,
report cards of A’s & B’s
that foreshadowed my parents’ dreams.
I am from the family who made me a first-generation college student with my sister and brother who will continue the legacy.
Ahalia Persaud is a student at Simmons College and an intern at Class Action.