Raul Lopez, Humanities & Communication, Shares His Story as a First-Generation College Graduate
Written by Raul Lopez:
I am the first person in my family to attain a degree from any University. I returned to school two years ago to achieve that and set an example for my children. Spring semester 2019 has been the hardest for me by far, but I was not going to let bumps on the road derail me from achieving my goal.
At the age of 29, I had to balance full-time enrollment, a full-time job, and the uncertainty of getting to meet my soon to be born son. Doctors were worried about him not making it. Those were very stressful times. He was born prematurely, and fortunately, he was born perfectly fine three weeks into the semester. He is doing excellent now. I started the semester living out of room 220 in Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. Sleep was a distant place for my fiance and me, but I had to get up to attend my eight a.m. classes Monday thru Friday. After an average of four hours of class every day, I’d have to clock in and work as Manager of Loss Prevention department in one of the retail stores at the Northridge Mall in Salinas. In between all that, I found time to spend with my other two children and complete the assignments for my classes. It was tough, but I always say God will test us. We just have to keep the faith. Fast forward to now. Here I am days away from walking on that podium and hearing my name called. My family will be in the stands, and they’ll know that I did it. I met my goal. All of this would not have been possible without my fiance, Dacia. She held home together this whole time. She is my rock.
Looking back, life has a way of making everything work. I had my beautiful daughter a day after my 18th birthday, and the traditional Mexican custom meant I needed to work to support her. I didn't start school like many of my friends. I took a different route. It was a difficult one, but oh has it been fun. Would I have done this a different way? Definitely. My daughter always says, “Dad, when I go to college, I don’t want to have kids like you. You look tired writing papers at two or three in the morning, but you still play with us.” I had the opportunity to give her a personal tour of CSUMB. She attended some classes with me. She got to see what the university life looks like (Just the PG side of it). While I reminisce, I can’t help to think of when my kids are in my position. I will be able to help them edit essays, help them research, and definitely help them through all the stress. I have now set the bar higher than my parents set for me. It was all worth it, and now It’s their turn.