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My Journey as a First-Generation Student at PSU

Maria and her parents at graduation

why portland state UNIVERSITY was the right place  for me and could be for you!

I came to the United States to reunite with my father at the age of 5 years old. Since then, I’ve wanted to make the most out of the hardships we faced and those which I saw as their own sacrifice. Higher education was a dream that they saw for me, but one of which we did not know how to reach. As a first-generation college student, like so many others at Portland State, I wanted to go into higher education to help my community, to work hard just like my family has for so long, and make them proud. I wanted to find a space where I would be able to share my experiences and help others along the way in my own academic journey.

Starting off at Portland Community College (PCC), I knew transferring to PSU was my best move because of what it offered me. From the opportunities, the accessibility, and the community, I knew I wanted to go here. It made sense to me why much of the student population are transfer students; after all, there is so much support within this institution for transfers. As a Gaining Awareness & Networking For Academic Success (GANAS) mentee, a retention program for Latinx students coming to PSU, I got the support I needed as I transitioned into a new institution.

Maria shows her PSU community service award

My time at Portland State went by so fast! Despite the impact of the pandemic in 2020 and beyond, I knew I’d continue being connected to the university. I got involved with as much as I could as a Mentor of GANAS, member and then Community Outreach officer of Mecha de PSU, Events Coordinator for Dream PSU, Student Ambassador, Orientation Leader, even part of Kappa Delta Chi Sorority, you name it, I did it! I loved doing all of it and I wasn’t going to let a pandemic hold me back. My involvement on campus helped me stay on track, focused, and with a great support system inside and outside of the classroom. Portland State was as much home to me as my physical home in Beaverton, where I commuted from every day until my last day of classes this spring.

As a Student Ambassador and Orientation Leader, among other things, I found more value in higher education and learned the importance of connection with prospective students and their families. I was able to connect with a variety of students across campus as well making my senior year very engaging and fun. Getting to share my own experience, and serve as a resource for others and their families, made it all worth it. There are so many opportunities for involvement and growth, which for me included participating in efforts to bring our programming in Spanish back for spanish-speaking families, talking in student panels and connecting with other students, and even connecting with staff from other departments.

Group photo of tjr 2021-22 Student Ambassadors at the admitted student reception

This degree is not just a piece of paper that will have my name on it. It will also have both of my parent’s last names. To me, graduating means that I got the opportunity to show my little 5-year-old self that her dreams weren’t unreachable like she thought. Graduating from Portland State means being able to continue using my resources and opportunities to keep helping others move through academia. It means celebrating my parent’s work and support. This sentiment was felt all across the weekend as many graduated and walked the stage just like me.

As we celebrate an ending, we welcome new beginnings and I’d like to thank everyone at PSU who I crossed paths with for their role in my own journey. You will have all the resources you need to complete a degree and have a great experience just like me at Portland State University.

I’m excited to now call myself a PSU Alumni!