First generation college students learn to be successful graduates through documentary

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - Educators in Kern County are using a film to help students on their journey towards higher education.  While there are similar challenges, people who are first in their families to attend college are experiencing more pressure to graduate.

Ricardo Morales remembers the exact moment he learned he was about to be the first in his family to graduate from college.

“I sat in my car, I cried. I soaked it in. It was just an overwhelming feeling of excitement, joy, there’s so many feelings going through my mind,” he said.

As a first-generation student, he didn’t know much about all the resources available.

“I really didn’t have friends or relatives that had gone through college so it was very new to me. And so just getting around, figuring out what classes I needed to take for my major and financial aide for sure was a big struggle,” said Morales.

He’s not alone, those beginning the journey of college face similar challenges.

“First generation students are faced with a number of things and those pressures can get greater when you have fewer people who understand the demands of college on a student,” said Amber Chiang of Bakersfield College.

A recent study by the U.S. Department of Education, shows that 50 percent of the college population is made up of first generation students or those whose parents did not receive a diploma beyond high school.

Bakersfield College awards students millions of dollars in financial aide every year.  Leaders hope the documentary “First Generation,” will give future and present students in-sight into being successful graduate and offer support they wouldn’t find at home.

“It’s hard to get support from my family.  They’re more supportive of, I guess me working and paying for my school than actually going to school and not working,” said Bianka Santiago, a first generation college student.

Educators also hope the documentary will help first-generation students inspire others.

“My parents didn’t go to high school, and when I get my first degree, that will influence my other family, relatives, especially my sister,” said first generation student, Salvador Murillo.

The “First Generation” documentary will be screened all week at Bakersfield College.


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