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Here’s Why Latinos Get Extra Emotional During College Graduations

Getting through college and receiving your degree is not easy at all – especially when you’re a first-generation college student. But despite the stress and sleepless nights, reaching the finish line is the best feeling in the world, both for you and your family.

If you’re the first in your family to graduate, your parents react one of two ways when you cross the stage in your cap and gown: they cheer for you at the top of their lungs or they completely freeze and choke up in tears because they’re so happy and proud of you. And this is why…

As the first in your family to get a Bachelor’s Degree, one of the things you have to bear with and adjust to throughout your years of study is the education gap between you and your parents.

CREDIT: STEPHANIE OSUNA-HERNANDEZ / FACEBOOK

The contrast between the workload in high school and the workload in college hits you hard in the face as you enter your freshman year. Because you’re the first one in your family to get a college education, you can’t really go to your parents for help – or anyone else in your family and at times it feels like you’re walking in the dark. They give you moral support along the way, but when it comes to your Mechanical Engineering: Finite Element Analysis class or a course on Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Culture, your parents’ hands are tied. This education gap between you and your parents makes it crucial for you to seek help from friends, professors and academic advisors. You have to go out of your way and make time to get the assistance you need because college is way too expensive to feel too shy or intimidated to ask for help.

“I don’t think my parents fully understood what I was doing at my university and why I couldn’t just do it at a local college. I think that until now that I’ve graduated and have the job that I do, they see what I was preparing for all these years.” -Stephanie Osuna-Hernandez

In addition to the intense workload of college courses, another thing that takes time to adjust to is being away from home.

CREDIT: @CHEERISCAM / INSTAGRAM

If you don’t attend a college that’s close enough to commute to, moving away from your home is not easy, especially if you’re extremely close to your family. For the first few days or weeks, waking up in a place that’s not your home feels strange and somewhat uncomfortable. From no longer having home cooked meals, to no longer being taken care of by your mom when you’re sick, there’s a lot that changes once you live away from home, and to be honest, it fkn sucks. There are some days that are tougher than others and sometimes you just break down crying because things get so frustrating and stressful and there’s nothing you want more than your mom and dad. You wish they were there to hug you, hold you, and tell you that everything is going to be okay, but instead they’re miles away and the only thing you can do is call. But soon you learn, this is what helps you grow.

“My mom is my best friend and my dad is a goofball, so I missed them all the time. I needed them all the time – especially when I thought an assignment was too hard or I wasn’t smart enough, I would just call home and my mom would remind me that I could do it, because she knew I could. I graduated because they didn’t and I chose to push harder because they told me that they knew I could. It was all for them.” -Camerina Morales

And one of the scariest things of all, is dealing with the cost of tuition.

CREDIT: ANDREW SANTIAGO / FACEBOOK

Being the first person in your family to attend college, also means you’re the first one to apply for FAFSA, scholarships and loans and anyone who has been through it will tell you it’s not an easy process. The harder part is knowing that you’ll have to deal with the same expenses for the next school year, and the year after that…but what if you don’t receive as much financial aid, or what if the cost of tuition suddenly increases, or BOTH? The price tag attached to college is scary AF, which is what makes getting through it such an immense relief especially because you don’t want to burden your parents by asking them for some help.

“It all hinged on this one scholarship that had the ability to change my life….and the day I got the call, I collapsed into tears.” -Andrew Santiago

But at the end of your college career, all of these struggles are completely worth it…which is what makes your graduation day SO. DAMM. SPECIAL. ❤️

CREDIT: @JROLDEE247 / INSTAGRAM

Getting through college is not easy, especially when you’re the first one in your family to do it. But the look on your parents’ face when they see you cross that stage, is what makes every sleepless night, every hour of studying and every stressful exam, completely worth it. This is the best gift in the world that you could’ve given them, and they will never stop showing you off – with immense love, pride, and joy.

“Nothing beats the feeling of knowing they raised you, and that you chose to succeed, that you chose to break not one, but many stereotypes.” -Camerina Morales

And the best part is that now you can be there for all of your younger brothers, sisters, cousins, nieces and nephews once it’s their turn to apply for college.

CREDIT: @JAZSM / INSTAGRAM

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re an idol to all of your younger family members. Seriously, you’re their hero. And now that you’ve gone through this process, you can now help out the rest of your family that also decides to attend college. It will still be a difficult journey for them, but at least they’ll have your support, guidance and advice, which is exactly what every student needs.

“Making my family proud was a priority, but hearing my baby brother say that he was proud of me was even better because I know he looks up to me…I guess it’s the same feeling I had when I was a little girl and looked up to my neighbors’ daughter who had graduated from med school in Guatemala. Children are influenced so easily, and I’m content knowing my little brother will follow my example.” -Jasmin Ramirez


READ: Mother of Mexican-American Student Killed In Paris Received Her College Degree In Her Honor


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She Was Barely Coming Down From The Excitement Of Getting Into Her Top Choice In University When She Discovered She Was Pregnant

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She Was Barely Coming Down From The Excitement Of Getting Into Her Top Choice In University When She Discovered She Was Pregnant

Matt Ha

Natalie Ruiz has crossed the stage at the University of California, Berkeley but her story is not the typical college time story. The 25-year-old Latina discovered that she was pregnant just three weeks into her first semester in college and, for a moment, she thought her dreams of graduating college were dashed. Ruiz talked to mitú about how she pushed forward with her dreams with the help of the unexpected village of people that came together to help her graduate from UC Berkeley with a 3.97 GPA.

For Natalie Ruiz, the dream of finally being accepted to UC Berkeley was almost derailed by an unplanned pregnancy.

CREDIT: Natalie Ruiz / Facebook

“My absolute first thought was that my father was going to be furious, that I’d not just let him down but brought shame to him and my family,” Ruiz admitted to mitú. “I was coming down from the excitement of even getting into Berkeley, which was my number one choice that had rejected me as a freshman and accepted me as a transfer. I felt like I had finally achieved something really great by being accepted to UC Berkeley and then all of a sudden I had tarnished it.”

But, on her own accord, Ruiz decided to push forward and make sure she would one day walk across that stage to her family and friends cheering her on.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Natalie Ruiz

Ruiz told mitú that she put her energy into an unhealthy form of motivation by telling herself that she had no more room for failure. She tried her best to just immerse herself in her classes so that she could honor the sacrifices of her farm working abuelito. Then Ruiz began to use her real-life experience to find what interested her in her studies. As a young mother who would go to the stores late at night to use WIC stamps so no one would see, Ruiz began to study more sociology to help her make sense of her situation.

But just six weeks after having her baby, Ruiz became really ill and discovered that she has a serious case of pancreatitis that had gone undetected during her pregnancy. This left her in the hospital for a month and recovering from surgery for six months.

CREDIT: Natalie Ruiz / Facebook

“In the time after I had my daughter, I went into the emergency room for a fifth time after many incidents of pain that were unexplained,” Ruiz told mitú about her post-pregnancy health scare that left her in the hospital for six months. “I was diagnosed with having severe necrotizing pancreatitis and what that meant was that the pancreatitis was getting so bad that it was essentially dying and infecting and cutting off the function of my organs, specifically my pancreas as well as my gallbladder and my spleen.”

During her six-month recovery, Ruiz told mitú that a village of people suddenly came together to help her take care of her baby.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Natalie Ruiz

Ruiz says that over the six months in the hospital there were groups of people helping her make it through. She was in constant contact with her professors as she insisted in staying enrolled because she needed the financial aid to pay rent, which you can still do even if you are in the hospital. But what really touched her was the organizing that her friends and family executed to make sure that her child was taken care of. Calendars were marked to keep at least one person with Ruiz and another with her baby at all times. There were also women who donated their own breast milk so that her then-6-week-old baby was able to continue feeding on breast milk the entire six months she was in the hospital. Ruiz recognizes that if any part of the support that grew around her was not there, their spontaneous health care center would have fallen apart.

But the person she thanks the most is her partner and father of her child.

CREDIT: Natalie Ruiz / Facebook

“I have so much respect for the many of my friends who are single mothers, who are parents on their own, because I don’t know what I would have done without the support of my partner,” Ruiz told mitú. “I mean that in terms of helping me balance school with parenting, helping me to maintain my mental health during the stress. The emotional support.”

Ruiz says that she was lucky to be a student at UC Berkeley during her pregnancy and young motherhood.

CREDIT: Matt Ha

“I am extremely fortunate to have been at UC Berkeley, where the resources available for students with children are far more generous than other universities. These resources include a student-parent grant which was added to my financial aid package,” Ruiz told mitú. “I was the recipient of a few other truly great scholarships including the Peter E. Haas Public Service Award, as well as the New Leaders Scholarship. Between these supports, as well as family support, I feel extremely privileged to have been able to finance my educational dreams.”

Now that she is a brand new college graduate, Ruiz is looking for work that will make it possible for her to help other people who are going through what she went through.

CREDIT: Courtesy of Natalie Ruiz

The 25-year-old graduate would like to work in social policy research. Specifically, she wants to “advocate on behalf of poor families in California” in order to better inform lawmakers about the social impact their legislation has on poor families.

“If [education] is your dream, do not give up,” Ruiz tells young mothers about juggling a baby and school.

CREDIT: UC Berkeley photo by Brittany Hosea-Small

But Ruiz does make a point to say that if you are a young mother or pregnant in college, you might have to advocate for yourself until things change. Ruiz credits her university’s procedures and resources to young mothers before her who advocated for the kind of services from which she benefited. If it wasn’t for the student parents before her, Ruiz acknowledges that her own journey navigating motherhood and college would have been much tougher. Above all else, Ruiz says you cannot and should not apologize for being pregnant or a parent. She argues that by apologizing you are making harder for universities to create the necessary spaces to help future student parents.

Congratulations, Natalie!

CREDIT: Matt Ha

May you have all the future successes you have dreamed of.


READ: This Latina Blamed Her Parents For Her Lack Of Education When She Was A Teen, Now She Is Graduating From UC Berkeley And Thanking Them

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