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Succeeding as a First-Generation Student

I understand. It seems too easy for some of us. At times, it also seems like too much for some of us.

To all of the first-generation students, I want to say I am proud of you! This is something that some of us hear too often and the rest of us wish we could hear more. As a person who was once in your shoes, I am proud BECAUSE of your determination, persistence, and selflessness. You are strong (mentally and symbolically). Yes, all eyes will be on you. But you do not have to succumb to the scrutiny. Keep your eyes fixed on your goals and “keep swimming.”

Galdwin Stewart with arm around womanThere is no guide for the journey that you have embarked on. You will hear plenty of stories, but not everything will come close to your lived experience. From one proud Johnson Scholarship Foundation first-generation student to all that will follow, here are some tips, affirmations, and food for thought:

  1. Work hard for you! We oftentimes forget to think about ourselves as first-gen students. Our family is and always will be important to us, but this is our lives and we have to do what makes us happy as well. Your family will be happy for you regardless.
  2. Don’t forget to take some time for yourself. Stopping to smell the roses is important. We can get caught up in the daily grind and forget to stop and take a breath, catch a sunset, or go for a walk to decompress. If you are not 100 percent, then you cannot give 100 percent to the activities or people in your life.
  3. Gadwin Stewart, Johnson ScholarNot giving up when times get tough. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The ultimate measure of a man (or woman) is not where he (she) stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he (she) stands in times of challenge and controversy.” What you do when times get tough will define your persistence and resilience. Remember that some of the eyes that are watching are hoping you fail. Don’t let their hopes come true at your expense.
  4. You are the first, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect. There is room for mistakes and learning along the way. Find a support system (person or group of people) and don’t hesitate to ask questions.
  5. Sharing your experiences with your family will make them feel like they are a part of your journey. Sharing is truly caring. What you share with your family could inspire a family member to follow in your footsteps.
  6. Growth is inevitable. It is okay to grow and still cherish the values that you were raised with. You will always sound different, dress different, and even behave differently to someone somewhere. When they say you have changed, tell them that all caterpillars must grow wings, eventually.

“To whom much is given, much will be required.” – Luke 12:48