Filled with passion and emotion, faculty and staff panel members Ana Tovar, José Ramon Nuñez, Dolores Cornejo and Samuel Nieto shared their experiences and challenges as first generation college students.
Former Fullerton College DREAM Team president, Lupita Cisneros, hosted the forum and lead students in a question and answer portion with panel members after the discussion.
Students then formed groups to share their personal experiences as first generation students and encouraged later to share what their group talked about.
Groups such as the Puente Program, FC Dream Team, MECHA, FC Foster Youth Success Initiative and Latina Leadership Network, were present. All had booths set up with representatives and information for students to join.
Food such as conchas, sweet Mexican bread, and coffee were provided.
The name of the event was changed from “Latinos Student Forum” to “Latinx Students Forum” to be more inclusive and gender neutral.
Transfer Center Counselor Ana Tovar shared her journey as first generation college student. She said she faced many barriers such as coming from a single household, figuring out the system and what she wanted to do.
Tovar said her first semester experience and how difficult it was for her but said she later connected with a transfer counselor at her community college who familiarized her with the resources provided for students like her and helped her to transfer.
Foster Youth Liaison in EOP and CARE Dolores Cornejo, came from a low income, large family of seven. Her biggest struggle attending a University was financial issues and picking the right roommates.
After struggling she chose to move back home her sophomore year, but she didn’t give up. Since she spent more time at school, Cornejo met people who supported her on her journey by getting involved at school.
Vice President of Instruction José Ramon Nuñez brought smiles to students’ faces with his humorous personality. His obstacle was having to deal with polio and time management because of it, but he was able to see it as an empowerment.
Nuñez said, “I had to learn who I was and what I could do and what I wanted to get and I did anything in my power to do it.” The Vice President of Instruction explained that he had a support group who helped him on his journey and how important it was to have that.
“You are who you are and when you accept who you are, you can set your goals and you can achieve anything.” He shared that students should not look for approval or to try to be similar to anybody else, to just be themselves.
Graduate Student and Cadena Center intern Samuel Nieto was able to relate to the students as he is a student himself. He said he is still learning and overcoming various obstacles just as many other students. He attended Cal Poly Pomona after high school, dropped out, and went back again.
According to Nieto, he attended three community colleges at once to transfer and was able to go back to Cal Poly Pomona to finish his degree. Eventually he got accepted to a masters program at Cal State Fullerton.
“A lot of my success comes from those around me,” said Nieto. He said it was the support system that he had that helped him get where he is today. He also spoke on staying true to one self, and studying their passion. To not major in something because it’s what the family wants or because of the money. Something that many Latino students go through.
FC president Greg Schulz made an appearance and thanked the panelists and organizers of the event and said, “This is such a great tradition we have at Fullerton College. I’m very very proud of the student forums we have.” He then shared some lyrics from ‘Guerilla Radio’ by Rage Against the Machine, one of his favorite bands, whom to him talks about the college.
President of the FC Dream Team and former Puente student ,Jazmin Martinez, said, “This is my identity. This is who I am. I really thank this program a lot because it opened a lot of doors for me. It made me feel like I was at home and I wasn’t alone in this.”
Puente Program counselor and instructor Elsa Aguirre said, “It’s a bridge to anything, an education to your dreams, to me [Puente] is an opportunity for students to feel welcomed and proud of who they are.”