You have to be better than us: These are words that I heard often when I was growing up. My family made incredible sacrifices that have afforded me the education I have today. Most of my ancestors worked in physically-grueling jobs for menial wages, and my great-grandfather worked so hard that he passed away from exhaustion. My parents had to drop out of community college to support their own parents.
I grew up in a rural logging town in coastal Oregon. I come from four generations of loggers and log truck drivers. In high school I was exposed to geology by a teacher on a field trip to the beach that left me with a set of questions: "Why are there sea shells in rocks on the top of the mountain? Why are those rocks tilted on their side?"
Sometime during high school, I decided I was going to go to college to study geology.
Irving Huerta '20 - Sustainable Environmental Design and Political Science - Public Service
By Irving Huerta with Hailey Chatterton '20
I graduated in the middle of a pandemic with two degrees in hand, and my dream job as an urban planner. I could not be more proud of how far I have come.... If I made it this far, I know that you can too!
Maybe that’s an unusual statement for 2020, but looking at the bigger picture, I have a lot to be grateful for. Not only did I graduate from my dream college, but I have a new goal and a plan I’m proud of, and I’ve had some memorable experiences along the way.
Eric Thai '20 discovers his academic pathway and his family history converge in research.
“What is a Ph.D.?” My immigrant father asked.
He was understandably concerned about my plans to spend another 4-5 years pursuing another degree.
“A Ph.D. is a degree that prepares me to ask questions and contribute knowledge to the world.”
Seeing how stumped my dad was, I pulled out a pen and paper and started drawing concentric circles representing expanding bands of knowledge, with a Ph.D. as a mountain rising on the outer layer – and at its peak, an academic career.
Ten years ago I arrived alone in the US with nothing but a dream. Now I am proud to call myself a scientist, a PhD student, and a mentor. My family, while loving and supportive, never imagined that I would become a scientist. To be honest, neither did I.
The two hands represent my parents, and the rag being twisted holds everything that represents my parents such as their hardships, sacrifices, and dreams. By twisting the rag, both hands “shower” me with love, support and most important of all, an opportunity. At the bottom is a representation of me in my graduation gown holding my diploma while I receive my parents loving gifts which all contribute to my growth of who I am today.
Being a first-gen student comes with its challenges, but for Chelsea Blankenship, the journey had bittersweet movements, where she learned to find beauty in darkness. Through her poem, simple talk, Chelsea hopes to help other students understand that they are capable to overcome trauma and that they are beautiful being.
As the daughter of two immigrants, Roseanne Gorelik and her family was ecstatic for her to have the opportunity to attend UC Davis, and to now see her graduate, it is a dream come true for the family. Through her written poem: Us: In Poems, Roseanne describes her powerful relationship with her family and how her journey through college, was not just for her, but for her family as well.
From a hardworking agricultural family in the Central Valley, first-generation graduate Yilda arrived in Davis prepared to dedicate herself to her studies in order to succeed not just for herself, but her father as well.
Kathy Pham is a queer, first-generation college student who was raised by two Vietnamese refugees. Kathy was very involved in different organizations throughout her four years at UC Davis. Read her powerful poem from our First-Generation Grad Stole Contest.
Being a First-Gen student can mean many things. Struggle, accomplishment, and family are just some of the ways Carmen Torres Antonio described this identity and what being a first-generation graduate means to her.
Stefany grew up in Sacramento, California where she is the oldest of three and the daughter of Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants. Stefany decided she wanted to pursue a career in the medical field when her brother was diagnosed with Leukemia shortly after she started community college. When she found out about the affiliation UC Davis has with the hospital and the student-run clinics, she realized she couldn’t wait to be an Aggie!