With summer co-workers at the East Bay Community Law Center’s “Clean Slate” clinic. At this event, Cheyenne (second from the right) helped review rap-sheets and discussed the criminal record remedies available to participants.
Some people think “Well, yeah you’re first-gen, but in college everyone is adapting to a new environment, not just you, what’s the big deal?” What do you say to those people?
It’s about resources. I remember when I was a freshman in college, a lot of my roommates had parents who went to college and when they had a problem or needed help with their homework they called their mom or dad. When I called my mom, I got a pep talk and a “You go! You can do this!” But then I had to figure it out on my own.
Really, it’s about the immediacy of resources, because while you do have all these student resources available, there’s nothing like being able to call someone you feel comfortable with and who knows what to do. There’s also an anxiety that goes along with reaching out to those resources because a lot of students worry that they’ll sound stupid for not knowing already. Remember, asking for help is not a reflection of your intellect, it’s about learning how to navigate the environment and find the things that are going to help you succeed.
Why do we need more first-generation success stories? What is the advantage of having more kids going through this process successfully?
People might disagree, but I think it’s most important to their communities to have first-generation success stories. Where I grew up, in San Diego, I knew three NFL players by the time I got to college—I didn’t know any lawyers, doctors, or engineers, but I knew three NFL players. That has a symbolic, communicative effect on a community. There’s nothing to be said for kids who don’t want to take the athletic route. Where do they look to find that example? And a lot of times, when kids don’t find it, they assume it’s just too hard or not possible. You believe what you see. When you don’t have access to people in the profession you aspire to, when you don’t have an example, it just becomes so abstract. I wish I had known a lawyer growing up, but the little kids in my family? They see it.