Mesa Cooperativa, a Latinx organization, hosted Día de los Padres for Latinx students and their families to highlight different struggles their children face as first-generation students on Sunday.
A group of seven students discussed their personal experiences navigating college.
One of the topics the students discussed was the difficulty in being part of a minority group, and not seeing minority support in an academic environment.
Liliana Miranda, one of the panelists, took many Spanish classes while getting her bachelor’s degree, so she was constantly surrounded by other Latinx students. She said she never really felt out of place until she entered the teaching credential program.
“The program is mostly white students, and so when you’re in a place where you’re the minority, you feel a lot like an outsider because obviously they speak in a different way,” Miranda said. “I’ve sometimes questioned my place in the program. I think it’s really difficult to get out of that mindset.”
Christian Plascencia, another panelist, said the dynamic at home changed a lot once he entered college.
“The previous semester there were three or four weeks where I didn’t see my mom,” Plascencia said. “When I’d leave from school she’d be getting to work, and when I’d get up, she’d be just getting back. I’d go to school and she would go to sleep. We never really saw each other.”
Odalys Gutierrez said that despite the challenges of being a first-generation college student, she pulls through for her mom.
“At the end of all it I’m doing this for her, so it’s worth leaving everything in Tijuana so I could go forward,” Gutierrez said.
Of the seven panelists, Yesica Godinez was the only one with children. She said her college experience was impacted by her extra responsibilities as a single mother of four.
“It’s different because I do have to work and then manage my house, therapies, doctors’ appointments and homework,” Godinez said. “It’s very hectic. I sleep very little but I am super motivated to learn. I’m hungry to learn.”
While the majority of the panel said they worked hard in school to make their parents proud, Godinez had a different motivation.
“A lot of the panelists said, ‘I do it for my parents.’ I was not in that position. It was like ‘I do it for my kids,’” Godinez said.
Parents also got a chance to speak. One mother said she feels helpless about her daughter’s situation, and that she’s anxious for her but wishing she could help, although not knowing how.
Another parent said he didn’t believe his daughter would be able to handle college, but she proved him wrong.
“She moved over here and we didn’t believe it, especially since she had problems with anxiety, so when she moved over here I told my wife, ‘Wait a month. She’ll be back,’” the father said.
Despite initially feeling anxious for their children, most parents were more at ease by the end of the panel’s session. One parent said she could never really understand why her daughter was so busy all the time, but the panel helped her see it from her daughter’s point of view.
“With time, I began to understand that this was her schedule, and I adapted to it,” she said. “I know it’s because of all her exams and everything else.”
Godinez said that being a mother in college while her daughter also attends college has helped her to be more open-minded.
“The oldest one just started going to Santa Ana College, and I can understand her now so it’s different for some of the parents in there where they don’t understand, and because I’m going through it, I understand,” Godinez said.
Being a first-generation student means navigating through the whole application process and figuring out how to balance school with everything else. Godinez said she hopes to set an example for her children.
“I am a first-generation student, so I think in a way I’m also teaching my kids that if I can do it, there’s no excuse for you not to do it,” she said.