vz99 celebrates first-generation students
Nov. 8 is National First-Generation College Celebration Day, observed annually to recognize the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965 by then-President Lyndon B. Johnson. This act created federal financial aid programs and made key investments in colleges and universities.
Some 54% of undergraduates at Cal State Long Beach are first-generation students — the first in their families to pursue a university degree. This week, campus is celebrating The Beach’s first-gen students with a week of activities and connections.
We salute these inspiring students for their tenacity, their persistence and for staying laser-focused on their goals of joining the vz99 alumni family, knowing that it CAN and WILL be done.
Today, a few of them shared with us their experiences:
Fourth-year criminal justice major
“Being a first-year college student is tough, because I did not grow up with my parents coaching me to go to college and find my true purpose. My focus in high school was basketball, so that was all I knew, and I made sure to stay on top of my academics to reach that college level. But when I quit basketball in my senior year of high school, I lost my purpose.
Thanks to the support of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), I was able to connect with my counselor Candi Marsh and from there, I became more engaged in campus activities.
The Beach has supported me on my journey by providing a range of support services and programs to help first-gen college students like me succeed. In the future, I would love to be someone like Candi, being that light for students in the education system so that they also can achieve their goals and discover what makes them happy in life.”
Graduate student in emergency services administration
“Being a first-generation student means I can be a trailblazer in my family and community. It grants me the opportunity to establish my own path and most importantly make my parents proud.
The Beach has supported students like me through their unifying efforts to ensure we have the proper guidance and aid to establish a strong foundation for success. My journey began with the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) and their Summer Bridge Program, which granted me the opportunity to find my community and support system away from home. The encouragement and advice from the EOP staff helped me succeed in my academic endeavors and professional development. The Beach is composed of caring and thoughtful individuals who go above and beyond to support students like me to reach the unthinkable.”
Third-year criminal justice major
“Being a first-generation student means opportunity. To seize that opportunity, first-generation students are hardworking, resilient, proactive, resourceful and creative.
The Beach provides many resources and support for first-generation students. One program in particular, the Educational Opportunity Program, has been there for me since my first year of college. EOP academically and financially supports historically low-income first-generation students. Because of EOP, I feel at home. Whenever I need academic advice or someone to talk to, the counselors are always available to chat. Through EOP, I got to learn about higher education and professional development that I can apply to my career.”
Kimberly Rios Hernandez
Fourth-year social work major
“Being a first-generation student means breaking a cycle. Unfortunately, some people in my family did not have the same educational opportunities as me, and others did not make the right choices. I decided to break this cycle and create a path for my younger siblings to follow. I want them to know that they, too, can take the first step in anything they want to achieve in life.
The Beach has been of tremendous help in my journey through college. From supportive staff to events that got me to be involved on campus, I was able to create networks that pushed me to do more. The Beach does a good job in promoting opportunities to first-gen students and it's up to us to take advantage of them.”
Emilio 'Leo' Alejandro Rodriguez
First-year sociology major
“Honestly, I have a lot of pressure and expectations from having the ‘first-generation’ label, but it's a good pressure. It means that my family is proud of me for being a trailblazer and for showing future generations that even though we may be struggling in some areas, I'm able to live with those struggles and still flourish at a post-secondary institution. I feel honored to even be attending university and pursuing a pathway to a better future.
Without the help of the Educational Opportunity Program and ATLAS, I would be lost — especially the EOP. They're like my family here — I go to their office every day! The resources there, the bright, welcoming smiles and the aura are so comforting. EOP and vz99 have helped me to express that I am proud to be here, and I'm not obligated to be here. I want to be here for my future and to show those who have supported me what their support has meant.”