Overcoming Adversity

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Daniella Hernandez

Future leaders in the making! Paloma Hernandez, a first-generation college student, continues to face the challenges that many low-income students experience throughout their course to success. Over the Spring of 2020, Hernandez graduated from Stanford University with a Master’s degree in Earth Systems and Policy. “I'm obviously very proud of her, and she worked really hard for it. I hope, in the future, she is happy with what she’s doing” Maria Hernandez, Paloma’s mother, said.

Daniella Hernandez, Editor in Chief of Design

First-generation college students share their stories

Being a first-generation college student is notorious for being one of the hardest high school challenges that most low-income students face. The college process is already hard as it is, but not having the resources to help them out, puts certain students at an unfair disadvantage.

I think there are more obstacles to overcome because there were fewer privileges I had when growing up.  My parents didn’t know English so they couldn’t help me with the schoolwork,” Mr. Bautista, an AP United States History teacher, said. He believes that being a low-income student meant fewer resources and guidance were accessible to him. He does acknowledge that his older brother proved to be his inspiration to seek a life better than that of his parents. 

Bautista suggests that in order to change this common narrative among first-generation college students, constant college promotion must be embedded in their heads. He emphasizes the importance of graduate school and aspiring for education beyond an undergraduate degree. 

“I didn’t look explicitly for guidance, and I think that was a mistake that I made. I don’t think I realized that I was feeling lost. Schools need more resources for Latinx centers… they need more funding for sure… It just feels different when you can relate to your faculty,” Paloma Hernandez,  a Stanford Master’s graduate, said. Hernandez believes that her lack of guidance pushed her to work harder than her colleagues throughout high school and college. 

Hernandez recalls often feeling confused around her peers because she wasn’t able to relate to them on a cultural basis. She states that college was the first time she was exposed to certain academic fields. “There was a cultural gap; like I was missing out on this whole piece of the arts and sciences,” Hernandez said.

In a realm of inevitable setbacks for first-generation college students, speaking of one’s own encounters can make the journey easier for others. “As a first-generation college student I need to be better at sharing my story, my struggles, and also my successes so that others may question and not feel ‘so lost,’” Mr. Marquez, English Teacher and Maywood City Council Member, said. He believes that the college journey was far from easy for him. Coming from parents who never completed school and attending a huge high school that rarely individualized students meant he lacked college guidance. 

Due to unwelcoming experiences he encountered in the past while attending CSULB, Marquez realized the importance of sharing his story. He emphasizes the significance of making oneself more aware of other’s challenges. “It’s okay to be lost. It’s okay to be afraid. It’s okay to have and ask hundreds of questions. But ask the questions,” Marquez said. 

Insufficient funding for public schools is one of the many social issues Southeast Los Angeles students face. 

[The lack of education] is normalized”

— Daniel Gonzalez

Daniel Gonzalez, ASB President and an incoming USC freshman, said. He believes that many students lack parental support during these times because the college application process is something new for every family member. 

Gonzalez sought out college guidance from teachers and counselors but still emphasizes the process had its many challenges. He believes that it’s really up to the students to dig themselves out of the adversity society has put them in. He recommends searching for internships and programs geared toward first-generation college students. “Maximize every window of opportunity,” Gonzalez said.

Are you a first-generation college student?

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