Genesis Nicole Rodriguez — A Dreamer’s Story

Genesis Nicole Rodriguez never struggled with academic work until she started filling out her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Rodriguez, the oldest of the fluent English speakers in her household, realized she isn’t alone in this struggle.

“When your parents aren’t fluent in English, figuring out how to do the technical documents like FAFSA is one of the hardest things they don’t tell you about college,” said Rodriguez.

An estimated 27 percent of the college population is comprised of first-generation college students, according to a 2018 study by the National Center of Education.

Rodriguez, 20, is among the 50 percent who are first-generation in a traditional collegiate experience. She is not a stranger to the struggle of being a first-generation college student as the first in her Ecuadorian family to get a college education.

To help students like her, Rodriguez helps students gain access to the information she had to fight for. She currently helps at Boston Latin Academy, her alma mater, by guiding seniors on what to truly expect from a collegiate experience.

“There are a lot of first-generation students at my high school, so I always tell them, ‘You are going to have to work twice as hard to have the same amount of success,’ because I want them to be prepared,” she said.

Each year, Rodriguez goes to her alma mater to tell first-generation students about the reality of college in hopes that they will be more mentally prepared than she was.

“It’s not all parties and fun, it’s a lot of work and coffee,” Rodriguez said with a chuckle.

With a coffee in hand, Rodriguez discussed her pursuit for a marketing degree at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.

“Growing up, I loved the aesthetics behind marketing, and now I’m making it a career,” she said.

Upon entering Boston University, Rodriguez realized the challenge that came along with being a first-generation surrounded by students who were prepped for college since they were born.

“I always have to remind myself that traditionally, this isn’t where I am supposed to be,” said Rodriguez, “I’m fighting a statistic to get higher education while all my peers were destined for this.”

She isn’t wrong.

One-third of first-generation students dropped out of college after three years, compared to a mere 14 percent of their peers whose parents had earned a college degree, according to a 2018 study by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Rodriguez is almost done with her first two years in college and is determined to finish the next two years.

“I want to be able to tell people, ‘I did it. I graduated from one of the best schools in the country, and I proved the numbers wrong,’” she said.

To reach her goal, she dedicates at least four hours to studying and preparing herself for a successful career in marketing. 

“The studying only ends when I have my degree in my hands and a job!” she said.

Rodriguez pointed out that this process, for first-generation students, is more difficult than for a student in a college-educated household.

“My parents taught me so much and I’m always grateful for everything I learned, but they didn’t really get the academic stuff, so it was up to me to figure it out, just like it is for most first-generation students.”

As a first-generation college student, Rodriguez sought help from anyone who provided it.

Whether it was by accessing online resources or reaching out to professors, she never hesitated to ask for help.

“I think it’s so important to remember that resources for college are available everywhere and when those resources couldn’t help me, the Internet always did,” she said.

She described how from the beginning of her college application process until her acceptance date, the college websites immensely aided her and how she recommends that to every student.

“Use the Internet! It’s one of the most untapped resources for first-generation students and it has so many websites dedicated to helping students like us,” she said. “Without using all those resources, there’s no way I would be where I am now.”

Sitting in the Questrom School of Business lobby, sipping her coffee and studying for her Business Statistics final, Rodriguez prepped by color-coding the notes from each unit.

She stated how she never imagined herself in this environment six years ago.

“When I was a freshman, I didn’t care about school or studying because I didn’t think it was for me, but with the help of my teachers, I was able to do it and prove myself wrong,” said Rodriguez.

Her mindset didn’t shift naturally.

After a constant push from her high school teachers, Rodriguez ended up at her dream school: Boston University.

“It was one of my proudest moments because as a first-generation student, I couldn’t believe that I got that lucky,” she said.

Rodriguez was the recipient of the Community Service Scholarship which is awarded to alumni of Boston Public Schools for giving back to their community. With overflowing support from her family and friends, she accepted the offer to Boston University and continues to remember how she started this journey: struggling to finish a FAFSA.

 

“My kids will never go through that struggle because their Mom knows how to do it,” said Rodriguez.

 

Want to keep up with HCBU? Make sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram, check out our Pinterestboard, and read our latest Tweets!