#ProofPointDay: First-generation Reflections

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Today, May 27th is #ProofPointDay when we celebrate first-generation college students and graduates. We admire your resiliency, commitment, and diligence! We asked Braven Fellows, Leadership Coaches, and staff members who identify as first-generation college students and graduates to share their reflections on this important day. 


What does it mean to you to be a first-generation college student or graduate?

ProofPointDay Students

“Always stomping, never tiptoe. Being a first-generation college student to me means that every experience is completely new, meaning that I will not only have some successes but also make mistakes. But I enter each new experience stomping so that my footsteps can be heard, imprinted, and followed by those who will come after me.” – Daniel Kelley, San José State University student

“To me, it means to be appreciative, diverse, and zealous. Oftentimes for first-generation college students, there is a heavy burden to pursue the “American Dream.” However, we must realize that the dream is different for everyone and leads to multiple paths of success. Embracing your culture and background while understanding your full potential makes an excellent platform for success. Because we have the luxury of furthering our education as our parents did not, we need to appreciate every opportunity that comes our way and be passionate about our dream!” – Sae-Young Bak, Rutgers University – Newark student

“To me being the first to graduate in my family means that I will be making it easier for my siblings to go to college by helping them when they experience college for themselves. Additionally, it symbolizes all the hard work my parents have done to get me to this point as well as my ancestors working long hard hours.” – Monica Franco, San José State University student

“I was blessed with supportive parents who have encouraged my pursuit of education. Being a first-generation college student has not been easy as I’ve had to learn many things on my own. I was lucky enough to find people along the way who have been really supportive and directed me to programs like Braven through which I’ve been able to grow professionally. The day my parents and family saw me walk across the stage to pick up my degree was the day we realized that everything we went through–all that hard work–was worth it.” – Vicky Saguay, Rutgers University – Newark graduate

“It means setting a positive precedent for my younger sister. Growing up, I didn’t have anyone to look up to help me navigate college. I had to figure that out on my own. But now, I can be the mentor to her that I wish I had growing up.” – Jalil Ahmad, San José State University student

#ProofPointDay Coaches and Staff

“Being a first-generation college graduate means holding this degree for all those who came before me. My dreams and the dreams of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents who sacrificed to help get me to that stage live in my framed diploma. It’s not just a piece of paper.” – Cassandra Castillo, Boston University graduate

“We are the true explorers of higher education. We navigate through forms, classes, halls, websites, offices, and departments without a compass. We don’t even know the meaning of ‘first-generation student.’ We are proud students, who happen to be first-generation.” – Jeykid Acosta, Rutgers University – Newark graduate

“Being a first-generation college graduate means celebrating the work of those who came before me, namely my parents, who worked tirelessly to make sure I had access to the educational opportunities they did not, and paying it forward for future generations so that the American Dream is more than an empty promise. It also means acknowledging that what you learn in the classroom alone is necessary but not sufficient. Things like networks, mindsets, experiences, and information capital are critical if we’re serious about closing the opportunity gap in this country.” – Sheila Lopez, Harvard College, and Harvard Law School graduate

“To be a first-generation college student is to be the education pioneer for your family. It is the product of a remarkable ability to tap into one’s grit and support networks, and navigate the systems and other critical factors that facilitate educational achievement. Being a first-generation college graduate is often the fruit of generations of labor focused on improving the social and economic position of one’s family. It is also indicative of changing times in our nation’s education system.” – Edgardo Perez, Marist College and Harvard Graduate School of Education graduate

“My parents worked hard to ensure I had access to doors that were closed to them, and I’ve worked hard since graduating to fully utilize my degree and make them proud.” – Andrea Schwartz, University of Southern California graduate