Haley Santa Cruz '22

Haley Santa CruzMajor: Nursing

What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?

Being the first person in my family to go to college has been a journey. This time in my life was the first time I would turn to my biggest resource, my family, and they would try their best to help me, but sometimes they just didn’t understand. My parents never had the opportunity to go to college and constantly hearing about their upbringing growing up really gave me an incentive to go to college. Coming to a new state in a new environment, knowing nobody, and not having my biggest resource to help me really forced me to grow up fast. I faced a lot of pressure that I put on myself to succeed and got extremely discouraged when I didn’t. As time went on, I felt as if I was alone and that I didn’t belong to any community here at UP. Feeling this, I ended up reaching out to my resources and that’s where I found the FGEN program. The opportunity to connect with people who understood where I was coming from. This really helped me succeed by showing that I’m not alone and helped me unload a lot of pressure I was putting on myself when it came to navigating college.

What does it mean for your personally to be a part of the FGEN community and, specifically, to be a FGEN student ambassador?

Being a part of this community means a lot to me as I get to be with people who understand. Along with this, being an ambassador really means a lot to me as I get to be a part of a support system for other first generation students.

What is your advice to FGEN students at UP who are facing challenges?

My biggest advice is don't be afraid to turn to someone when you need to, you should never have to go through anything alone. As a first generation student you are going to go through a lot of things in college that your peers and even your own family won’t understand sometimes, but understand that it’s okay. Reach out to resources such as professors, advisors, and even the FGEN community because they’ll always be there to support you.

Did a mentor play a role in your experience?

Someone who played a huge role in my own experience here at UP was my FGEN mentor. My first semester of college was truly a time of transition for me and I faced a lot of struggles that I felt I had no one to go to about. Feeling this way, I ended opening up to my mentor about the situations I was in and she helped reassure me that everything was going to be okay. She helped me realize that a lot of the things I was going through were normal and stuff she even had gone through as a FGEN student. After this, it really encouraged me to want to be there for other FGEN students just like my mentor was there for me, resulting in me being a FGEN ambassador today!

What resources have been significant, meaningful or helpful for you so far during your UP experience?

The most significant resource during my UP experience so far has to be the office hours provided by teachers. The teachers here at UP are constantly striving to help and support you in your studies. Using these office hours to build relationships with my teachers has truly proven to be helpful and a key part to my success in my academics.