Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Award-winning student news since 1978

The Brookhaven Courier

Challenges and triumphs of first generation Hispanic students

For many first-generation Hispanic students, navigating the college system can be an overwhelming and daunting experience. From the registration process to academic and cultural pressures, this student demographic faces unique challenges that can make their path to success seem like an uphill battle. 

Hispanic college students are the largest minority group in U.S. colleges and universities, yet have the highest dropout rates, according to the National Center of Education Statistics. However, with the help of dedicated faculty and helpful resources, many of these students are not only overcoming these obstacles but thriving in their academic pursuits.

Diana Villagomez is a first-generation Hispanic student at Dallas College Mountain View Campus. “Coming to the U.S. without my parents was one of the hardest things to do for me,” Villagomez said. “Leaving my parents, my siblings, it was one of the hardest things ever, but it’s also some of the wonderful things that I’ve been able to appreciate more in my life.” Villagomez said she credits her faith, family support and love of learning with helping her overcome challenges as she pursues her goal of becoming a nurse. 

She said she also praises the Learning Commons and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society for providing valuable resources and a sense of community. PTK has many international students fighting for their dreams. 

Joe Martinez, an education professor at Mountain View Campus, said he acknowledges the reality of financial barriers many first-generation Hispanic students face. “Financial support is important because many of these students can’t afford it,” he said. “And then there’s always other responsibilities, like taking care of siblings or relatives. But if there’s a financial incentive, you can pull back from work, and it allows them to focus on school and the connections and resources to people on campus.”

Martinez said he believes success coaches and the variety of resources available at Dallas College can make all the difference for first-generation Hispanic students. Resources available include PTK, TRIO, the Male Achievement Program, the Ascender Program and Bezos Academy.

He said that being first-generation often leads to being savvy in the college environment due to often being put in the position of translating for their parents in different scenarios from an early age.  

PTK is an international honor society for two-year college students that recognizes and encourages academic excellence. Its mission is to provide opportunities for personal growth, leadership development and service to others. 

TRIO student services provide academic support and resources for low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities to help them succeed in college. The Male Achievement Program is dedicated to guiding and providing opportunities to minorities. The Ascender Program is a support network providing success coaches, instructors, mentors and classmates. 

The Bezos Academy is a preschool at Cedar Valley Campus. A second location is set to open during the Fall 2023 semester. The preschools function on a first come, first serve basis, and parents who wish to register their children with the academy must meet a number of requirements, such as income eligibility. The full list of requirements can be found on Dallas College’s website.

Nathalie Oliviere, a first-generation Hispanic student, said it is important to integrate into college and find one’s place in a new environment. “Even just registering is a very tedious process, and it can be complicated for someone that has no idea or doesn’t have anyone to help them do it,” Oliviere said. She said cultural and generational pressures can influence academic and career goals. “Coming into college just opens up your mind to different cultures and ethics and morality,” she said. 

Through her work-study position at the President’s Office at Mountain View Campus, Oliviere learned about the resources available to her. She said her supervisor, Muñeca Torres-Rivera, executive assistant in the President’s Office, informed her about events that can help her.

Events include early registration for current college students, transfer fairs hosted by the Career and Transfer Skills Development department and resource fairs that introduce students to resources on campus. 

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