“I had to be [my own] college boss for college applications, financial aid, figuring out language barriers, [and more],” Ni said. “Doing things I've never done before and getting out of my comfort zone is something I have repeatedly experienced. These sacrifices were made in hopes of living a better life for myself and my loved ones.”
Ni’s experience and perseverance are familiar to the roughly 15 percent of Hamilton’s current students who will be the first in their families to graduate from college. He was one of many to attend a campus event as part of the annual national celebration aimed at raising awareness of the first-generation college student identity and experience. Hamilton’s event was sponsored by the College’s FirstUp Initiative, and gave attendees the chance to meet and connect with, as well as learn from one another, while enjoying refreshments, prizes, and giveaways.
For many first-generation students, Hamilton has helped their experiences and increased their chances for future success. Aranza Vargas ’26 understands her parents’ sacrifices have enabled her to pursue higher education, and without their determination, the opportunity might not have been possible. Vargas is grateful for Hamilton, “knowing that it is possible to feel included and accepted in a place of higher education, despite coming from a disfavored background.”
Branden Secaira ’27 believes that “coming from a family that has had no access to high level education opens a gateway to opportunity for the future.” Thanks to “the resources Hamilton provides, from alumni connections to student resources and the Career Center, this scholarship breaks my family’s glass ceiling and allows me to dream bigger, to live a successful life,” he said.
Despite the distance between college and their hometowns, first-generation students want to give back to friends and family who have helped them attend college. Javier Garcia ’26 sees his success at Hamilton as “the culmination of all the hard work that my parents have made to put me in this position, and now at Hamilton I am fully trying to take advantage of this opportunity. This is a position they were never able to benefit from, and I want to make sure their sacrifices are ultimately worth it.”
As part of her identity as a first-gen student, Shams Shamil ‘27 hopes to leave a legacy. “Finishing college, making my parents proud of leaving their home country, leaving their jobs, and all for an opportunity to do good in my life and give back to them. Sacrifice is something that has run in my family for generations, it’s my time to give back.”
Carolina Suero ‘27 shares a similar vision of her first-generation identity, understanding that “you want to make sure yourself and your family progress with this sacrifice and this life trajectory.”
Ni echoed that. “[My parents] had dreams and hopes for a better life but were not financially in a favorable position. Being first generation gives me the chance to live out their dreams and make them proud,” he said. “Within this society, going to college has become a prerequisite for achieving greater things in the future, and going to Hamilton is foundational for completing my dreams.”
I'm First (Gen)
From faculty and staff to students, the Hamilton community counts among its members many who are the first in their families to attend college.