Marcos Vieyra

First-generation students, who don't have a family history of higher education, are a group that make UW Tacoma a very special place. Read their stories as they tell, in their own words, about the challenges they overcame on their path to success.

Marcos Vieyra, UW Tacoma law and policy major and first-generation studentGrowing up, the emphasis on college was always present. My parents never had the opportunity to go to college and wanted to ensure their children would not have to struggle as they did. I saw how hard my parents worked to provide my sister and me with every opportunity they could. From a young age, I was aware of this dynamic and I knew the only way I could repay my parents for their sacrifices was to achieve greatness.

Like many first-generation students, I was aware that my accomplishments were not solely my own. Every award I won, or “A” I got, was less for myself and more for my parents. They were at every award assembly and seeing their faces light up when my name was called is something I will never forget. My parents are the driving force behind everything I do and without their sacrifices I would not be where I am today.

Even with a strong support system, my journey to college has not been an easy one. The college application process is not kind to those with no prior experience. I didn’t have anyone to guide me through the system. I had no idea where to start or even how to know where to apply. A majority of my classmates did not have this problem, so I felt embarrassed asking for help. Despite having a strong academic background, I was completely lost during the application process. Even more so when searching for ways to fund my college experience.

Many first-generation students have similar experiences to my own.  In almost any classroom, first- generation students will be among the hardest working, as they must work twice as hard to have half the opportunities afforded to their classmates. My only tip for first- generation students is never to give up. The long hours spent both in and out of the classroom will all be worth it, but you must not give up. As a first-generation student, your success goes beyond just yourself. When you succeed, everyone who has sacrificed for you succeeds as well. Remember that. Remember everyone who has been a part of your journey, both supporters and naysayers, so when you are finally where you want to be you can look back and thank them.

As a law and policy major, I am interested in making equitable change and I firmly believe change lies with first-generation students. First-generation students carry with them boundless experience and passion. Many come from diverse backgrounds and each have a unique story to tell. There is strength in being first-generation.

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Written: 
May 10, 2017