The first to enter a world no one in your family has entered before.
By Kathryn Gonzales
Ana Fuentes, 17, will be the first in her family to graduate high school, but instead of pride she feels the pressure of success that has been growing as she has achieved more than her parents ever could.
A senior at Furness High School in South Philadelphia, Fuentes was raised by Honduran immigrant parents and is the oldest of her three siblings. At a young age, Fuentes had to become her own teacher when it came to navigate the world of academics.
“I needed to get the grades in middle school and high school in order to show myself I can do it, but also my parents”, she said. “I realized I was weighed down by the pressure to show my parents and my little brothers that it can be done.”
Fuentes is one of many first-generation students from immigrant families to continue the educational journey despite the challenges that are in their way. A 2011 report from the Higher Educational Research Institute at UCLA found that within four years, only 27 percent of the first-generation students earned a bachelor’s degree; in comparison, 42 percent of their non-first-generation peers had received their degrees.
College students who have the shared status of being first-generation and an immigrant are burdened with navigating the college process, finding resources and balancing their dream and goals with those of their family to name a few. These students pursue higher education to improve their family’s socioeconomic status, which makes choosing a career path an important decision.
“It is already hard enough being first-gen but when my parents don’t know what I am going through with the college process then it’s kind of lonely,” Fuentes explained.
For many first-generation immigrant students, it is there sole responsibility to make sure they are on track to academic success, while still providing support for their family.
While these students are climbing the ladder of academic achievement in their families, they are faced with dealing with family obligations, which may create tension as students are torn between the demands of their home and family versus those of their academics. Continue reading