By Isabel Alvarado, Bud Class of 2016
Being a first-generation student is something that I am very proud of. While it was not always easy, I am grateful for my experiences at UT. A first-generation student is someone whose parents did not receive a 4-year degree in the United States. This title comes with many things: struggles, celebrations, confusion, happiness, and pride. My experiences as a first-gen may not be like others, but I have come to appreciate every part of it, from not understanding FAFSA to having to figure what being at college is even like.
After getting a little acquainted with UT, I decided I would join Physical Therapy Organization. It was geared towards what I wanted to do after college, I had friends in it, and it seemed fun! PTO was a good time, but it wasn’t for me. During a meeting, I realized that I didn’t actually want to do physical therapy. I wanted to help people, but not in that way—I just want to make a quick point, if you don’t feel comfortable in an organization right away, it’s okay to keep trying, and it’s okay to leave, but the most important thing is to find the right place for you. After this crisis of what to actually do with my life came up, I turned to my mentors. They led me in the direction that I needed and I found my major, Youth & Community Studies.
My family, especially my Nonno, has always been my biggest supporter and when I feel like I can’t do it, he reminds me that I can. My dad has always been there to remind me that I come from a culture that endures; he always tells me his favorite Mexican proverb, “They tried to bury us, but they didn’t know we were seeds.” This has been something that I always refer to when I’m struggling and I feel like the world is against me. Thankfully, I also have support on campus. I found my home away from home within Women of Excellence. These women keep me accountable and remind me that I am powerful and strong when I need it.
During my time at UT, I was in a scholarship program called the University Leadership Network. They did a great job of supporting me my first year, but I wish I had something to support me all the way through. From my different campus experiences grew my passion for wanting to better support first-gen students as my future career. My hopes are to create a program that better supports college students the whole time and beyond. There are many efforts that get us here, but who helps us stay here? Creating my own non-profit that focuses on these efforts is my ultimate goal and when I get there, feel free to reach out!