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47,000 Things

Facing College: First Generation Students’ Stories from Central Michigan (Mt. Pleasant, MI)

(ANONYMOUS, 19)

I feel like my mission on this Earth is to help others because I didn’t have that as a kid. I didn’t have a role model or anyone to help me. I hadn’t heard from my dad since I was three or four and we didn’t talk again until I was around seventeen. I knew he was Haitian Creole but didn’t know much more beyond that. Through him, I learned that my family came from Pétionville in Haiti. My ancestors wanted to remember where they were from so that’s where our last name originated. My mom’s dad was Chippewa and I only met him a few times when we were still living in Wisconsin. My grandmother was born to a military family in Germany, so they traveled all over. My mom was born and raised in Memphis, so pretty much all of her family resides in the south.

When I was young, we moved from Wisconsin to live with my grandmother in Lansing, where her parents stopped after their travels. I lived with my mom, then in New York with my aunt, and then moved back to Lansing again. We were in between homes, so we weren’t strangers to living in shelters for a while. As a kid, you don’t really know what’s going on, it’s all an adventure to you in the first place but to my mom, I’m sure it wasn’t. I was moving every year of my life, so I kept moving schools. When I was in seventh grade, we got a house, my mom met my stepdad, and I stayed in the same area through the end of high school.

I kept to myself when I was growing up, so I didn’t have many friends. I read a lot of books and plays, my favorite being A Raisin in the Sun. I didn’t read a lot of books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. My mom wanted to be a novelist. Her love for literature and the classics influenced me to read books like that. High school was really important to me because I met my group of best friends in band. They shaped who I am today – I didn’t have a close connection with my mom or my sisters, so I was kind of adopted into my friends’ families. Anytime I got knocked down, they would pick me back up again.

My mom always said that education was a priority. My sisters and I took it seriously, but they got caught up with life. Both of my sisters got pregnant at sixteen and decided to focus on their families rather than pursue higher education. I was the first to earn a diploma and walk across the stage. Now, I’m the first one to go to a four year university.

When I got here, I didn’t have any family or friends to lean on. I didn’t know anyone. An hour isn’t that far of a drive, but when you don’t have a car and don’t know how to drive, it can seem like a country away. During my freshman year, I found out my scholarships and stuff hadn’t gone through. The day before the bill was due I went to check things out. I was really nervous because I didn’t want to be charged a late fee. I kept thinking, maybe college isn’t the place for me because I don’t know how to do any of this.

I was walking down the hallway and this man walked out of one of the offices and asked me why I was crying. I told him about my situation. He turned out to be Mr. Davis, the academic advisor for CMU’s Pathways program. Mr. Davis made me an appointment to see someone the next morning so I could defer everything for 48 hours and make sure my loans came through. He asked if I was a first generation college student and Pell-Grant eligible, I said “yeah.” He then asked if I had heard of the Pathways program because it wasn’t too late to sign up for a First Year Experience class. I thought to myself, he just helped me in a second, what can a whole class teach me?  I’ve been involved in Pathways ever since.

I eventually decided to study anthropology to learn about other cultures. As someone who is of Haitian Creole descent, I want my area of study to be Haitian and African American affairs. I’m interested in working for the UN, the NAACP, with Black Lives Matter, or other organizations. I want to make a change. I want to be someone who’s on the front lines and fighting the good fight. I’ve also considered joining the Peace Corps after grad school. I just want to hit the ground running and help people.

I would like to be someone a kid could look up to. I want to provide resources to families in need. I want to promote change. From Black people to my Native American friends to LGBTQ, Latino, Indigenous and Aboriginal people. I want to advocate for diversity and inclusion for everyone.

But right now, I have 47,000 different things on my mind. I have a six-year-old nephew and two nieces that are three and four years old. I’m working thirty hours a week so that I can be able to help my family if they need it. I work hard to be another role model in my nieces’ and nephew’s lives and provide them with the support I wish I had as a child. That’s what I’m here for.


This story originally appeared in Facing College: First-Generation Stories, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

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