First Generation Grad!


courtesy of google

In the U.S there are 86 percent of students who graduate highschool, and 49 percent who enroll in college. Among the 86 percent, 31 percent of those students are first generation. 

According to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, first generation Americans refer to a person born in the U.S to immigrant parents as a naturalized American citizen. More and more first generation Americans are enrolling in high school, due to immigration, making up more than a quarter of students enrolled in high school as well as first generation graduates. Gerardo Carbajal, Senior, looks up to his grandparents for motivation as they immigrated to the U.S to raise him.

“I was born in Mexico and moved here with my grandparents. My motivation to graduate was getting out of the house and being able to experience the world for myself  and having that diploma as a base for success. My grandparents motivated me the most because I really wanted to make them proud, they don’t speak English and they tried their best to raise their family to raise me,” said Carbajal.  

Getting through high school is challenging enough, according to the 19 percent dropout rate in the U.S. However, students find ways to get through it and look forward to graduating and being able to walk the stage and get a diploma. College board, a not-for-profit organization that connects students to college success and opportunity, recommends students to prioritize assignments, set attainable goals, and find social support.

More than 4 in 10 first generation Americans are the first in their family to graduate high school and attend college. Many immigrant families weren’t able to attend college or graduate high school so for many first generation students it is their goal for them to graduate. Sadaf Najeeb, Junior, expressed her gratitude towards her parents by graduating and using it as motivation to keep going.  

“I just want to make it, and show my parents that their sacrifices and all the different things that they have done to immigrate here was all for something. I just want to show them how grateful I am for what they gave me, and being able to graduate high school. Knowing they came here to America with nothing so that we can have a better life is my biggest motivation,” said Najeeb. 

First generation students often experience barriers due to the possibility of English not being their first language. Immigrant parents who have children in the U.S teach their children their native language from their home country. When coming and living in America, first generation students are put in ESL, English second language, a program to help immigrant and first-gen students who suffer from a language barrier in the classroom. Alexandra Imoisioi, struggled with her english accent as well as making friends because of english not being her first language. 

“The first struggle I faced was my accent and learning English as a second language. I really struggled with it for a while until I really dedicated myself to learning the language. I can speak good English, it’s just that I also struggle with my accent a lot. When I talk I know some people don’t understand me. I have felt bad about it and it was also a struggle socially to make friends and socialize more because of the language barrier,” said Imoisioi.

Want, gives advice to her students about going out and socializing more to be able to learn the language. 

“Something I always tell my students especially my ESL students is to try and get out of the little circle of just hispanic kids, and they never get a chance to practice english. I tell them to get away from the group, i’m not saying don’t have friends who are hispanic but you can’t just stick with the kids who are hispanic because it’s comfortable. You have to get out there and practice english other wise you’re never going to learn it,” says Want. 

First generation students are likely to be challenged with navigating the college process without the learning advantage that comes from having a college graduate family member to lean on. There are plenty of scholarships that target first generation college students. First generation scholarships are a form of financial aid that focuses on students who are either the first in their family to go to college or whose parents don’t have college degrees.