By Astride Adrien
Being the first in a family to ever go to college or even graduate high school is a major accomplishment. It’s something that shouldn’t be minimized, but even with overcoming such a massive feat, that doesn’t overshadow the hard work, commitment, and dedication it took to get there.
Some say that there is a certain level of “hustler mentality” one needs to be able to obtain this type of success especially when you feel pressured by the people surrounding you to “be the first.”
“I felt a lot of pressure for me to go to college,” said Lisdrasanac Louimeus, a second-year student with a Political Science major. “My mom wanted me to go to college, she always pushed me to get good grades, you know to make the family proud. She even told me that I couldn’t live in her house if I didn’t go to college after graduating.”
It can be a struggle for students like Louimeus to be put on a pedestal. It can often be like a predetermined dream is being pushed on you whether it is something you dreamed of or not.
“Realistically, I didn’t want to go to college because of how much debt I would be in,” Louimeus said. “I’ve always wanted to be in law, but my mom wanted me to go to medical school to be a nurse and was more than a little bit disappointed when she learned, but she managed to push past it because college was the number one priority.”
With all the work and social pressures of college, many first-generation college students develop cases of anxiety. This was the reason for its inclusion as a breakout session during Barry’s Leadership and Inclusion conference on Sept. 24.
Session coordinators were Spiritual Life Programming Coordinator Rev. Deborah Montoya and Director of Graduate Admission of Social Work Alyssa Persaud.
Montoya, a first-generation college student herself, offered students a firsthand perspective on her own challenges.
“I had performance anxiety and I noticed I started doing things to sabotage myself like not turning my papers in and not communicating with my teachers.”
Montoya was not just the first in her family, she also led the path for her siblings.
“I actually wanted to go to college. Going to college was like a sense of accomplishment for me,” said Reverend Montoya. “I felt like a million dollars because I was the first in terms of my siblings to graduate college, and to put the cherry on top, I was the youngest woman out of all my older brothers to do it.”
For Montoya, she attended college right after high school but dropped out soon after — a story often told by first-generation college students.
“I told myself that I was going to work, and so I worked. Before I knew it, I was forty-six and my daughter was getting ready to come out of high school,” said Montoya. “I decided that I needed to be a good influence on her so I came to school here at Barry and graduated in 2020.”
It's not an easy transition coming to college for the first time, especially when you have no one in your family to turn to for guidance about the expectations of your new journey in life.
First generation college students who are battling anxiety can seek counseling from individuals like Rev. Deborah Montoya at email@example.com.