First-Generation, Taking on Their Future

Students share their experiences of being the first in their family to graduate college.

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First-Generation students Schantal Herrera, Mauricio Villegas, and Patricia Evans.

Photos Courtesy of The Students

Jaclyn Lukas, Staff Writer

Some take the college experience for granted because they forget past generations didn't have the same opportunity to attend or finish college. This results in many becoming first-generation college students. While it's a big responsibility, this is also an amazing opportunity for first-generation students.

"As a graduate student in the field of counseling, I want to grow as a person and learn as much as I can," said Herrera. "The reason I chose the field of counseling is because without my counselors, I would not be here today.” 

Graduate Student Schantal Herrera is a first-generation studying counseling at Kean University's The College of Health Professions and Human Services. Herrera is the first in her family to get a bachelor's degree and is currently striving to be the first with a master's.

As a first-generation student, Herrera is very grateful for all of the help and resources received in her journey. With pressures of being successful, Herrera aims to live up to the expecations and to stay motivated in her studies.

Freshman Mauricio Villegas will also be a first-generation college student. Set to graduate in 2026, his main goals are to graduate on time and to pass his classes with adequate grades. In the future, Villegas aims to receive a master's degree in accounting and to have a successful career after building up his social networks.

"It [college] was an exciting step of my life starting all over again, but it was definitely scary at times. It’s always hard reaching out for help. You know that’s the hardest part of it all," Villegas said.

With only his mother at home, Villegas is forever grateful for the opportunities Kean has given him. Between classes, Villegas lives an exiciting student life, meeting new people and networking with those around him.

Sophomore and Psychology Major Patricia Evans is aiming to being the first ever college graduate in her family. Expecting to graduate in 2025, Evans works hard to keep up with school work while staying on schedule. Coming from Jamaica with her family, Evans understands the importance graduating so that she can be in a better position for her family.

“I expect myself to grow in various ways. My knowledge, social skills, leadership skills, and many more skills that I would need in the future," said Evans. "After graduation, I expect to further my education with grad school and get a psychology job.” 

Although college is a huge weight on Evans's shoulders, she would not give it up for anything. The freedom of college and the support from family are two factors that are keeping her motivated.

Good luck on your journey, first-gen! 

about the author

Jaclyn Lukas, Staff Writer

Jaclyn Lukas is an English major with a concentration in writing. She joined The Cougar’s Byte staff in Spring 2021. After her time at Kean, Jaclyn hopes to start her professional career in publishing for books or newspapers/magazines.