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Jamie Gilroy

LEAD Seminar

Challenges and Goals Paper

November 19th, 2019

What role do I see myself as, given that I am the first in my family to attend college?

I was born to a single parent mother, who is an immigrant from Ireland, and has not

completed her high school career. Although never completing her own education, my mother

knew that to succeed in the United States, her daughter would need an education that would push

her past her limits. She placed me in a strict catholic elementary school, hoping that it would

encourage me to be a disciplined student. Everyday, she would drop me off at the school doors

and say the exact same motto: “Listen to your teachers, try your best, and come home knowing

something new.” This motivation and the underlying message of “don’t come home without

getting a 100 on everything” pushed me to be a star student. However, the students around me

never seemed to share this experience. Many of the students from my elementary school, while

similar in the idea that some came from single-family homes or were first-generation students,

they walked through the door of seeing school as a chore rather than an opportunity. This was

because they had accepted their fate to be trade workers, construction workers, welders,

plumbers, secretaries, etc. They decided to feed into their inevitable future rather than attempting

to defy the odds and leave our small town. In this case, my fellow classmates in elementary

school did not see a value on their education because their families had been successful in not

completing school. The teachers within my low-income school district were contributors to this

mentality within students, as they had witnessed this unfortunate fate turn into a reality in a

number of their previous students. Luckily, I had my mother to deter these ideas and motivate

me, as I saw how difficult and hard she worked day in and day out. She always reminded me that

if I worked hard at my education, work would come easier and easier. Because of my mom’s

consistent effort and hard work, she became an inspiration in me to place a higher value on my

education as compared to my peers. As the first in my family to attend college, I am fulfilling my

mother’s dream and working towards being able to provide for her as she has for me for 18


For my creative project, I chose to play a youtube video of first-generation students

reading letters from their parents. In the clip I have chosen for my presentation, it shows 11

students from UC Riverside reading letters from their parents in which they describe what

graduation means to their family. In this video, you can see the honest emotions and feelings

from both the words of the parents and the students. This clip fully encaptures my answering to

the question, what is my role as a first generation student, which is to have a piece of paper to

prove statistics wrong and achieve my mother’s American dream.