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My First Semester: Learning to Be My Own Advocate

As a freshman in high school, many people would warn me, “Enjoy it while it lasts because those four years will go by fast!” Back then you’d think that it was just something "old" people say but once you’re sitting in front of a large crowd of cheering family members, ready to turn your tassel to the left side, it becomes real.

At that moment you may begin to think about the next steps in your life. You may have absolutely no clue what you want to do next. Maybe you’re thinking about attending a university, a community college, or perhaps neither. In my case, I was contemplating everything, but something I did know was that I wanted to go to college and make my parents, who immigrated from El Salvador, proud.

As a first-generation student, I had no clue what to expect during my first semester at community college. In high school, I felt like everything was predictable and I knew what was going to happen. After 9th grade came 10th grade, after 10th grade came 11th grade and so on. There was a lot of learning that I needed to do and one of the first things I learned was self-advocacy.

Maybe you’ve heard teachers say, “in college, no one is going to hold your hand”. That phrase holds some truth to it because if you don’t reach out for help, no one will know you need it.

Asking for help didn’t come easy for me because I had to first admit that I was struggling. After accepting this fact, I was able to use some of the free resources that Reedley College offered its students. I enrolled in a small group at the Reading and Writing Center which made me feel more confident in my writing skills. I also received tutoring at the Math Center. Little did I know that these would be my first steps to learning what self-advocacy meant.

Speaking up for myself became less intimidating and I was able to enjoy my time at the RWC and the Math Center. In the end, I passed all my classes with the help that I sought. Although it was a struggle at first, I knew that I needed to continue showing up for myself and not for anyone else. Soon after, I learned that being my own advocate was a permanent thing. When I transferred to Fresno State, I knew that I was going to have to do the same.

Now, I'm here to tell you that the earlier you begin to be an advocate for yourself the more you will learn and the more you will be able to teach those that are coming after you. This is exactly what I plan to do as a current graduate student in the School Counseling program. I believe that everyone should be able to have a voice and if they don't have one, we can be the voice they need.

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