When most people think about going off to college they think of the things they see in the movies, like freedom and partying with friends. But leaving home for college is not that simple for everyone. First generation students that have grown up with active roles in their families don’t have the privilege of embracing independence and especially not at institutions that don’t always have their best interest in mind. Our peer educator, Nuria, talks about her experience being a first-generation student and shares some words of wisdom in this reflection.
You Belong Here
By: Nuria Villanueva
This is a personal narrative and a reflection on my struggles as a first-generation college student. Often times, it is easy to feel like I do not belong at a university this prestigious. I am the first in my entire family (e.g. siblings and cousins included) to attend a university. I feel the pressure of being an ideal student from all sides of my family, not just my parents. I am portrayed as a role model for my siblings, and all my cousins. The way I see it, the way I carry myself at school and around my professors is not just a reflection of who I am, but of who my family members are. I am representing my entire family.
My future is not my own. When I think of my future I take into consideration everyone that would be affected by my choices. Is my major right? Will the skills I get here prepare me for a job that pays enough for me to sustain my family members? Is this or that enough for them? I have had conversations like this with close friends who often tell me that the role I was given is unfair, but how do you explain that this is not a burden?
I often question my accomplishments. Do I deserve this? Is this right? Will I mess this up? Was this handed to me? What folks need to understand about first-generation students is most of us are family-oriented. Our accomplishments are theirs. Our struggles are theirs. This journey that we call higher education is one that we face alone, but we carry the expectations and pressure of many. We were never taught to be individualistic.
We are here to stay. We will make this institution ours. We are the future. Treat us with respect.
Have you noticed teal ribbons around campus this month? They’re to honor Sexual Assault Awareness Month, which happens every April. Preventing and supporting survivors of sexual assault is an important part of my work at CAPS, and we are grateful to partner with our downstairs neighbors at SHOP to support this mission. Today, SAFE at SHOP intern Erica West shares some information on what you can do to help prevent sexual assault at UCSC and in our communities.
Working Together To End Sexual Assault
by Erica West
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and SAFE (Sexual Assault Facts and Education) wants to take this time to spread awareness and support those who have experienced sexual assault. At SAFE we define sexual assault as any unwanted sex act that is attempted or committed without the other person’s consent. Sexual assault is not something we talk about often in our society and so sometimes it may feel like it is a rare occurrence. However 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes. Unfortunately, sexual assault is also one of the most underreported crimes and so statistics can often be difficult to find and verify. Why do so many people not report their sexual assaults? Continue reading
A Student Perspective on Abuse and Relationships
by Erica West
As we continue through October, I’m sure a lot of us are getting excited about pumpkin spice lattes, fall weather and Halloween, but did you also know that October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month? Domestic violence is an issue that affects us all, and it’s important we know how to recognize the signs, as well as how to support a survivor of domestic violence. Firstly, domestic violence is defined as behaviors used by one person in an intimate relationship to control the other. Partners can be married, living together, or dating, and it happens in same-sex relationships just as often as heterosexual ones.
Working to Prevent Suicide Among LGBT Youth
If you’ve been paying any attention to issues concerning the LGBT community over the past few years, you probably are already aware that sexual and gender minority youth are at a higher risk of suicide than their straight and cisgendered* counterparts. In fact, LGB youth are nearly one and a half to three times more likely to report thinking about suicide, and up to seven times more likely than non-LGB youth to have reported attempting suicide. The statistics are even more dire for transgender individuals. Nearly 41% of trans people in the US report that they have attempted suicide at least once.
Activist, writer, and sex educator Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project has been one of the most public and viral efforts to address the feelings of hopelessness and isolation that push many young queer people to consider suicide. What started as a simple message of hope from Dan and his partner Terry has blossomed into a global movement. Queer individuals and allies across the world have recorded personal and inspiring videos in support of LGBT youth, reminding them that they are not alone.
The Video that Started it All
Three years after the first video, thousands of people have posted YouTube videos of their own “It Gets Better” messages. People from all walks of life, including actors, politicians, sports teams, businesses, parents, and college students have participated. In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week, I want to invite you watch some of the best “It Gets Better” videos today. If you’re struggling and looking for inspiration, I am willing to bet there’s someone among the diverse array of voices that you can relate to. If you’re an LGBT individual who is in a place to lend some support, I’d encourage you to consider adding your own voice to the project. And if you’re an ally, use this as an opportunity to continue learning about the queer community and consider adding your message as well.
*For those who do not know the term, cisgendered individuals are people “who have a match between the gender they were assigned at birth, their bodies, and their personal identity.”
How Minorities Stay Healthy when Faced with Discrimination
The recent acquittal of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who admitted to killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in early 2012, has stirred up a lot of emotions around the nation regarding issues of race, the power of perceptions, and the value of human life. Earlier this month, UCSC students took to the streets in a show of solidarity to protest what many considered a grave injustice. Even President Obama has weighed in to address the profound psychological impact of this case, especially among Black Americans. It has been argued that racism strongly influenced both the targeting of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of George Zimmerman. Since July is Minority Mental Health Month, I would like to acknowledge the impact that experiences of racism have on the mental health of people of color.
There is a growing body of research connecting experiences of racial discrimination with mental health problems. Continue reading