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Open Letter from One First-Gen College Student to Another

November 7, 2022 10:25 am

College. It’s something that was unfamiliar to me for some of my life, but it is a place where now I can help make a positive difference in the lives of so many. I was once where many of you were. Breaking a mold for my family as a first-generation college student. Now, it’s my duty to make sure that there are more and more of us first-gen college students and graduates making an impact on the world. As a former first-gen college student now working at NPRC, this is a letter that felt so natural for me to craft.

I’ve been where you’ve been. It’s unchartered territory. Uncertainty continues to waver. Am I cut out for this? is a constant question that plagues your mind early in the journey. You may even be thinking, how am I going to handle all these different classes at the same time? I’m overwhelmed and there are so many different things that I need to remember. It would have been easy to give up or never to start in the first place. The same may go for you. But in the end, I knew that was not possible and I hope you never want this to be your reality either.

The comfort zone is something that you easily could have stayed in by not going to college. Instead, you are here. You are doing the darn thing. You are getting your degree and gaining knowledge that will set yourself and your family up for success down the line. It is a beautiful thing, but it is not easy. I’ve been where you have been. I learned about many of the topics you have learned about or may learn about in the future. I have written the papers, taken the tests, completed the projects, and attended the late-night classes that felt like they would never end. Just remember, these things are a short price to pay for a life filled with endless possibilities.

Like many of you, I grew up in this nine-county area that NPRC currently serves. Being raised here is not always the easiest, but like a Ford, it teaches you to be “built tough.” It also shows you the definition of hard work and allows you to grow unbreakable bonds with family, friends, and other members of the community. Those bonds were something I knew would last even if I moved away for my college experience. Fortunately, for those like you who attend NPRC, many of those bonds can remain strong and grow stronger because college in this region looks different than it did even just a few years ago.

One luxury you have on top of keeping these pre-established bonds strong is the unique experience of being able to make new ones with your classmates, professors, and NPRC employees who are all here to help make a positive difference in your life as you navigate this journey. College is a breath of fresh air. I encourage you to break out of your shell, leave your comfort zones, and show everyone you encounter on this journey kindness.  

There were plenty of moments in my college career when I felt tested, scared, tired, and like I was going to fail – but I didn’t.  I entered college with a lot of uncertainty about myself and my ability to succeed, and I left college with a degree that represents personal growth, resilience, grit, hope, and promise for my future. Now, I have the opportunity to support other students through their own college experiences.

I’m not alone on this NPRC team as a first-generation college student. There are many of us. While we may not have all had the same experiences, received the same degrees, or gained all the same knowledge, you can bet we all want what is best for you. We want you to win just like we did and are. We want you to set a standard for your family that going to college, receiving post-secondary education, or achieving anything you set your mind to is possible. Your journey matters. Your hard work matters. How you treat people matters. And being a first-generation college student and soon to be college graduate matters. Keep doing amazing things. You will be glad you made the choice to become a first-generation college student. It’s something to be proud of. Not just on First-Generation College Students Day that is celebrated once a year, but every day. 

We’re here for you.

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