First-generation students persevere through inherent challenges


Kimberly Garcia Cancio

A Carlmont sophomore presents in his AVID class. The AVID program can help first-generation students become more comfortable at school.

While first-generation students at Carlmont go through many challenges, teachers and other students provide a support system to help their high school experience improve.

First-generation students struggle daily with mental health obstacles and with the pressure and pride of being the first in the family to graduate high school and/or go to college. Carlmont first-generation students share the obstacles they faced and what they did to overcome those struggles. 

Additionally, staff members describe their experiences working and helping first-generation students succeed. AVID teacher Andrew Ramroth gives advice to first-gen students.

“Make relationships and ask questions,” Ramroth said. “Don’t have any sort of, you know, feeling of shame or pride of needing that help.”

Other staff members note the struggles that first-generation students face, both mentally and emotionally.

“I found that sometimes [first-generation students] don’t feel like included in the community. Like they don’t feel like it’s an inclusive environment, and that they feel like outsiders,” said Carlmont art teacher and former AVID teacher Joseph Espinosa.

First-generation students continue to grow and carry on with their educational lives. Student Veronica Acuna, a senior at Carlmont, shared her experiences as a first-generation student.

“Due to the amount of pressure and expectations your family can have on you, it can definitely impact your stress levels, not to mention that you feel less freedom in the sense that you don’t feel like there’s any room to make any mistakes,” Acuna said.

Acuna also advises younger first-generation students to find a group on campus where they feel fully comfortable and appreciated.

“I recommend surrounding yourself with supportive peers to be a part of a club or form a club or organization so it could provide a safe environment for others. Being involved in a community where you’re able to make each other feel heard on unique experiences is such an important thing because then you and your community will be able to take action, and perhaps you might even make a change that will inspire others,” Acuna said.

As shown, first-generation students continue living their lives academically and personally with the pressure of leading up to others’ expectations, while feeling the need to satisfy others but not themselves.

Being first-generation can come with pride and shame, sometimes working twice as hard as others and taking longer paths to reach their goals. However, the respect for first-generation students is growing more and more as their hard work pays off, not only for their parents but, most importantly, for themselves. 

“My advice is don’t let defeat crush your spirit and give up. Everybody starts off with struggles. It’s those struggles that teach us how to become better and more capable people,” said AVID and math department teacher Ramtin Aidi.