Immigration is a critical issue that will be hard to solve in the coming years. However, education and immigration are related. Education is a reason to migrate as well as better job opportunities and living conditions. When the education system is lacking, there can be indirect consequences with immigration. When writing new immigration policy, education as an experience cannot be overlooked.
What felt like decades ago, I was accepted into Chapman University. Now, at first, I thought that I would not be accepted to this “four year private university,” but instead attend the local community college Saddleback. The largest factor for me was money. I am very aware of the debt that students can take on from school. According to FinAid.org, the national student debt is over 1.4 trillion. I did not want myself or my family to take on such a heavy burden just on my behalf. Therefore, I only applied to Saddleback and might transfer to Chapman after 2 years in community college. However, since Chapman had given me such a generous financial aid package, the opportunity to attend was given. With this unexpected opportunity, I then knew that I needed to follow every opportunity that was given to me. This would prove itself very quickly.
About a month before my first class was to begin, an email from Chapman came out and it had fun activities that students could do a week before school started. I recall a camping trip and maybe something about a movie showing, but the last one on the list was something about the Promising Futures Program for First Generation Students. My first thought after reading this was “What is a first generation student?” With this in mind, I pressed to find out more information about the topic by following the link.
There it said that a first gen student was any college student that had parents who had not completed a four year degree in college themselves. This could be one or both parents. After reading this, I dismissed the idea that my parents had not completed 4 years in college to obtain a bachelor’s degree. Everyone must have a degree to work in the real world as every teacher told me in high school. If you do not have a degree, then you will not have a job and you will fail in life. I knew my parents were not failing in life since my father owns his own company and my mother helps run that business. Therefore they must have degrees. But what if they did not?
So I tried to process this potential possibility. I knew that my best friend’s parents had four year degrees because their jobs required them. Did my Dad’s job require a degree? I suspected that it did not, but then the only way to find out was to ask my parents. After asking the basic question of how many years of college did they attend it, was answered with only a maximum of two years. At this point, I thought they had lied to me to me in some way, but really I never asked them before this point.
With this new information, I believed that I could qualify to be in the Promising Futures Program since I am a First Generation Student. The only barrier to enter this program was a written essay of why I should be admitted into their summer bridge program. When I first read that question, I did not believe that I should even respond to the essay question, because I had just found out about this identity that I had all of my life. I did not feel deserving of this title, due the fact that I might be robbing the opportunity for someone else to join the program who might have known their identity longer and might have parents who have no college experience at all. I did not know how to approach the essay.
I asked my parents if I should even respond to the essay, but that came off as being above the program. My parents encouraged me to respond be saying “You cannot change who you are, so you should just give it a shot.”
With the idea of speaking for others, I felt as though I did not have a right to talk or dare write about being a First Generation student, but according to Linda Alcoff, “some of us have been taught that by right of having the dominant gender, class, race, letters after our name, or some other criterion, we are more likely to have the truth. Others have been taught the opposite and will speak haltingly, with apologies, if they speak at all.” With this baseline established, I feel easier to pursue the essay.
The opportunity to apply to any program may feel like it is just a requirement. I need the money for school, I need to get a job, or I need to move out of the house. Therefore, I must fill out this forms and be on my way. The idea of necessity did not apply for me. My life did not depend on my acceptance into the Promising Futures Program, neither of my parents would make do extra chores if I failed to get in, the only barrier to entry was the essay response. The idea of even writing the piece seemed complicated. I had no experience to work with, no one to reference, but I had an identity. This identity gave me the strength to tackle my response with the idea of honor. As Linda Alcoff points out, “ speaking should always carry with it an accountability and responsibility for what one says.” I wanted to honor myself, and my family by being a student that can overcome traditional values associated with “uneducated” parents. I would show the world that I had the confidence to conquer anything in front of me. Sadly, I did not say those exact words in my essay. I focused loosely around those ideas, with an addition to being thankful for the opportunity to meet new people and try new things. I am surprised at what the program had to offer from my acceptance of this essay.
The best part of this program was the ability to attend the summer bridge program. Not only was I able to meet a lot of people, I was able to develop a sense of family within the Chapman community. Everyone that I have meet has come back later in my school life to help me in some way. The biggest help has come from the adviser, Crystal, who not only has shaped my academic life, but also been a reliable resource when I need her most. For example, this past summer I went to Italy to study film with the Dodge School of Film. I would not have been able to pay for the flight to Italy and back, but luckily Crystal was able to direct me towards a PFP benefit of having my flight completely paid for. This was the greatest news at the time, and allowed me to experience Europe for the first time. I will never forget that experience. The program has also offered other opportunities.
Through the office of admission, they have created a Next Gen Overnight program which allows Chapman prospective students to spend the night at Chapman to see if they like the school. This students generally have parents that have not gone to college, and are the first ones in their family to experience a college. I was fortunate enough to be a dorm room to host a student from the Inland Empire. I was extremely nervous about meeting the student, but in the end, he proves to be a friend today. Through my connection with him, I not only helped set up a good first impression of the school, but he was able to join the Chapman Ambassador program and help the school even more.
With national student debt increasing and college graduation rates at only 60%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, education is a crucial part for the future generation of students. Students must be exposed to all of the possibilities of education to be able to see the world for what it really needs. What I really want is for all people everywhere to have the tools to create a lasting education that can withstand the test of time.
Education is critical to the development of any nation and that must be apart of our lives.