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Autumn Clay


What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college? Tell us about your story and what you think helped you succeed.

   In my family, I am the first child to attend a four year university and pursue a degree in STEM. My mother is from a small subdivision in Manila, Philippines called Mantilupa. My mother migrated to the US when she was 18 because her family felt it was the best way for her to earn a living doing respectable work and be able to support her family back on the motherland. My father, on the other hand, was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois for majority of his life. In his late childhood he moved to Compton, California where he lived the rest of his early adult life out.
   Both of my parents never attended a four year university. My mother acquired her knowledge about the legal world through experience. My father had an incredibly rough childhood, so by the time he was in his mid thirties, he earned his GED. The idea of earning a four year degree for both of them was no where near their current mindset. They were too busy focusing on how to care for their children and families back home.
   When I was growing up, college was a fancy idea. It was suggested and recommended, but not a plan I had to go through. However, I was determined to attend. For me, school was the only thing I was good at and knew how to do. As for my siblings, they were more crafty like my parents. When I graduated high school, I decided to attend UP and earn a degree in Biochemistry. The minor in Biology worked its way into my heart when I decided I wanted to be on a pre-pharmacy track and focus my career on pharmaceuticals - specifically, drug research and design.
   I think the only reason I am still attending college today is because of the immense support my family continues to give me. They want me to succeed and be the change they never got to initiate when they were kids. They have my best interest in mind and they want me to go down a path different than theirs. My parents felt they took the hard way out because that was all they knew, but they wanted better for me and that is why I am at UP today.

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

   To be a part of the FGEN community means to be at home, to be loved, and to be encouraged to strive for better. I think the FGEN community has lifted me in many ways. Before the FGEN community I felt lost and helpless. I did not have many people to turn to in hopes of finding resources right for me. I didn't feel like anyone identified with my background or personality. It was hard to want to continue getting an education in a place where I felt like an outsider.
   After joining the FGEN community, I felt at home. I felt loved and cherished by people who were very much like me, looked like me, and had the same interests and life experiences. I could see how the FGEN community affected me and my self-perception. I received the opportunity to meet some amazing people doing amazing things and because of these leaders, I was inspired to help others as well.

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

To the FGEN students arriving in the fall,
   I am coming from a place of understanding. Everything you are feeling now, I have felt and everything I am feeling now, you will soon experience. Your feelings are valid. Please do not be afraid of change. Change is your ally in these situations. You do not need to be perfect in everything you do solely because you are the first to do it. Your failures do not define you, it's what you do after that does. Come back twice as strong, be comfortable being uncomfortable, and you will find yourself reaching heights you never thought you would.
   I am here to support you. We, as a community, are here to support you. If you find yourself needing help, know we are your first resource (and a pretty darn good one too). We are here to watch you flourish into the magnificent human being you are.

Did a mentor play a role in your experience? Why or how?

I did not have an actual mentor assigned to me, but I think Ezedin Jabr had a huge influence in me becoming a part of the community. He guided me towards the community, informed me of what they do, and every since then, I have been a part of it. He was always there for me whether or not it was with the title of FGEN ambassador and I deeply appreciate him for it.

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

   The two resources that have had a significant impact in my success is SARC/ the learning commons and my professor's office hours. SARC is where I met Matt Daily. He helped me navigated my way through college socially as well as connected me to other staff or admin on campus that can help with my specific issues. The learning commons was really good for me because in addition to getting tutoring, they also helped me improve my study habits and figure out a plan that works for me in perms of studying and improving my grades by at least one letter. Lastly, all of my professors have been advocates for my success. They all love when people come to office hours, so when I did I got to know them better as a person and learn the material better through different teaching styles.

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