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First-generation success: Stories to celebrate

At IUPUI, 30% of students are considered “first-generation” – the first in their family to attend college. Sophomore Michelle Rodriguez-Silva is one of those students, and she is sharing her story about navigating campus life.

Michelle Rodriguez-Silva, second from the left, with her family. Photo courtesy of Michelle Rodig... Michelle Rodriguez-Silva, second from the left, with her family. Photo courtesy of Michelle Rodiguez-Silva.

Question: What made you decide to go to college?

Answer: Not many of my cousins went to college or completed their studies, and that really impacted me. Something that also encouraged me was my younger sisters. They are my motivation at all times.

Last semester I had to decide if I was going to get a regular bachelor’s or a master’s, and my little sister said “No, I want you to get your master’s. I know you can do that.”

Q: What has helped you most to navigate campus life?

A: The resources, especially TRIO and first-year seminar. When I didn’t know a lot of resources or where I could get tutoring, TRIO was the way I would go anytime I had a question.

I know personally, when I broke my computer over the summer, I was freaking out because I had summer classes and I didn’t have a computer. TRIO was there to help me; they offered to let me borrow one of their laptops, and I was able to finish my courses with that.

Q: What advice would you give to other first-gen students?

A: Never feel like you don’t belong in a certain place because there’s times where you’re going to be like “I don’t belong here.” You got here because of all the effort you put into it, and you deserve to be here just like anyone else.

My big advice is always go ask for help. I know sometimes we don’t like asking for help, but if you use the resources that you’re offered and you ask for that help, school becomes really easy. Also, try to branch out. Don’t just stay in a little bubble; try to meet new people as well.”

Read more first-gen stories.

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