First-Gen Stories: College Teaches You How to Learn
I grew up in the Bay Area, and I never thought there were any other options after high school than college. Within my family, it was just assumed that I was going. My parents discussed it as if it would happen; there were no other paths. Because of this, I did not realize that I was the first woman on both sides of my family to graduate from college until well after I earned my degree in Industrial Engineering. Now that I am older, I am super proud of that.
Getting a degree in a male dominated field was not easy. There were many times I was the only woman in my classes, and the experiences I had when entering the workforce were similar. When I was a young woman and early on in my career, I let a lot of negative gender-related experiences slide. As I grew older, I felt an obligation to help pave the way for the next generation of women in the technology space, which is why I am a member of our Women in Tech Leadership team here at Five9.
Throughout my post-college life, I have often been asked why college is so important. I don’t think it’s the actual content that you learn. Attending California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo taught me HOW to learn, and I use those skills every day. Additionally, furthering your education teaches you how to have an open mind, and gives you the ability to look at things from a different perspective. In my opinion, having this mindset is invaluable.
A few years back I started working with foster kids. As I delved into this world, it reinforced my awareness of how lucky I was to have my parents. They made getting an education my only option. I learned that only 8% of foster kids who start college finish it. That is only counting the kids who actually start college, so the overall percentage of foster kids who earn a degree is much smaller. They often don’t have role models in their lives who completed their education. Plus, being at a disadvantage socioeconomically, struggles to put food on the table and keep a roof over their head are often much more of a priority.
Most foster care volunteers like to work with younger kids, however I found that my passion is really working with teenagers and encouraging them to start thinking about college. I try to encourage and support however possible by finding resources, taking them on college tours, and being a general sounding board. I truly believe that education is key to help narrow the socioeconomic gaps in the United States, and I am happy to channel the unwavering faith my parents had in me to help other first generation college graduates succeed.