April Lai

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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.

April Lai, UW Tacoma first-generation studentAs a first-generation college student, I faced many more barriers than others who already have a history of higher education in their family. I had to navigate through college without the privilege of parents who have been through the same path and obstacles. While they may not fully understand, my parents support me by their tremendous pride and happiness that I can further my education. In addition, I'm motivated even further because I have two younger sisters for whom I hope to pave a pathway. I want them—and so many others in the same situation—to know that college may never have been an attainable dream for our parents, but we can strive to make it a reality for ourselves.

At times, it feels as if the entire world is against you, being the first in your family to attend college. I went to a K-12 school district where the majority of kids came from educated families and I felt like the odd one out. I recall hiding the fact that my parents are Chinese immigrants who never attended college, the better to fit in. Upon coming to UW Tacoma, I was pleasantly surprised to meet others who are also first generation. I finally felt like I could be comfortable with my background. By sharing my story, I hope to diminish the stigma around first generation students. It is an honor having the first opportunity from my family to seek higher education, especially carrying the support of my parents as I pursue my degree for all of us.

UW Tacoma has welcomed me with open arms. I am immensely grateful to have the support of professors, faculty and friends in my efforts to be a steward of student success. From the start, I was motivated to become a student leader to give back to my campus and student body. Although my transition as a first-generation student was difficult, it was certainly possible to achieve the goals I envisioned. As a sophomore, I have earned early acceptance to the Milgard School of Business, work for the Student Activities Board and serve on the Student Technology Fee Committee and Council for Campus Engagement. I advise my fellow students to keep striving for the goals they wish to achieve, no matter what obstacles may stand in their way. Just as I didn’t let my first-generation background deter me, I want to be a voice for others to feel confident in their academic journeys here at UW Tacoma.

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March 24, 2017