First-Gen Profiles

First-Gen Alumni: Darrick Smith (Oakes, sociology '96) [Photo by Anastasiia Sapon] First-Gen Alumni: Darrick Smith (Oakes, sociology '96) In 1992, Darrick Smith graduated from high school. In that same year, his hometown of Oakland had 175 homicides.
First-Gen Alumni: Ada Recinos (College Ten '15) [Photo by Anastasiia Sapon] First-Gen Alumni: Ada Recinos (College Ten, sociology '15) Ada Recinos’s Salvadoran mother and grandmother were on her mind when the 26-year-old was sworn in as the city of Richmond’s youngest council member in 2017.
Rafael Lopez, alumni (Oakes '05, women's studies) First-Gen Alumni: Rafael López (Oakes '05, women's studies)

A few years ago, as Rafael López, then a White House senior policy adviser, addressed an early-education and high-tech crowd in Silicon Valley, he realized the land on which he stood was where his mother and grandfather had once picked fruits and vegetables as farmworkers.

First-Gen Alumni: Reyna Grande (Kresge '99) Award-winning novelist and memoirist Reyna Grande attended UC Santa Cruz after her junior college English teacher urged her to leave the urban confines of Los Angeles and try living somewhere different.
First-Gen Graduate Student: Trung Pq Nguyen, History of Consciousness I grew up in East Side San Jose, a predominantly working class, immigrant, and people of color neighborhood in the Bay Area. I grew up in a crowded refugee household; my parents fled Vietnam in 1979 as part of the hundreds of thousands who believed that the boat was safer than land.
First-Gen Undergrad: Lizbeth Leon Beltran(College Ten '20 Sociology and Art) I am a low income first generation student. My high school didn't have a lot of resources but because of the influence of passionate and caring teachers, starting from my elementary years, I was able to overcome many of the obstacles of not knowing how to pursue a higher education. They believed in me and in turn I also came to believe it.
Ray Gutierrez with a mural of tribal symbols at Centurion University. Photo courtesy of Ray Gutierrez. First-Gen Undergrad: Ray Gutierrez (Oakes '18 Film) A university education can be more than classes, tests, and essays. Last summer Ray Gutierrez’s coursework took him to India, where he filmed a documentary about hearing-impaired students facing a gut-wrenching choice between family and opportunity.
First-Gen Undergrad: Eyra Gonzalez (College Ten '18 Environmental Studies) I came to the United States at the age of nine from El Salvador and lived in San Francisco since then. For 10 years I lived in the Mission District. I attended Mission High School where I was involved in community service events and sports! In the future, I hope to get involved in humanitarian issues in El Salvador and open up my own animal shelter for stray dogs.
First-Gen Undergrad: Anabell Vidanes Gimena (College Ten '19 Community Studies w/ focus in Health Justice & Sociology) My mother immigrated to the United States in the 90s and my father in the 2000s. I was born and raised in San Francisco and lived in a house filled with multiple families, often having to sleep on the floor to accommodate everyone in the house. Coming from the City, I was exposed to the open-mindedness and vibrancy of an immigrant community.
First-Gen Undergrad: Shannon Wong (College Ten '18-'19 Sociology and Business Management Economics Major) The greater opportunities motivated me to go to college. I knew that I needed greater technical skills to be able to make a career in business in my hometown of San Francisco. As my family are immigrants and we lived in an ethnic enclave growing up, understandably they would not know about the types of professional careers out there for me.
First-Gen Undergrad: Dayasia Bandy (Crown '20 Bioinformatics) A proud out of state student from Washington, D.C. I was born in Manassas, Virginia and was raised primarily by my mother. With my mother’s diligence and hard work in her nursing profession (now disabled), this inspired me to emulate the same work-ethic and to ultimately reach for the stars, not settling for anything less. My mother successfully finished with an associates degree in nursing whilst my father was only able to make it through middle school.
Adilah Barnes (Cowell '72, individual major in black theater, Theater Arts Department) First-Gen Alumni: Adilah Barnes (Cowell '72, individual major in black theater, Theater Arts Department)

An award-winning actor with over 50 years of film, television, and stage credits, Adilah Barnes is probably best known to television audiences for her role as Anne Marie on ABC's Roseanne for six seasons.

Adolfo Mercado (Kresge 1998, Anthropology) [Photo by Steve Kurtz] First-Gen Alumni: Adolfo Mercado (Kresge ’98, anthropology)

As the son of Mexican migrant workers who met in California, Adolfo Mercado says one of his earliest memories was of picking tomatoes in the field with his family.

Olöf Einarsdóttir, Chair, Academic Senate, and Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department First-Gen Faculty: Ólöf Einarsdóttir, Chair, Academic Senate, and Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry Department

I grew up in Iceland and I was one of 11 children, 8 girls and 3 boys. My mother completed high school, then entered law school but did not finish.

Amy Pei Ling Hong, alumni (Merrill 1999) and her children First-Gen Alumni: Amy Pei Ling Hong (Merrill '99)

My two older brothers and I were born and raised in San Francisco to parents who immigrated from Hong Kong.  My parents are high school graduates who learned of the American grading system when we entered public school. 

 Gina Langhout, Provost of Oakes College and Professor of Psychology First-Gen Faculty: Gina Langhout, Provost of Oakes College, Professor of Psychology, and Alumni (transfer student, Kresge, '94)

I was born in Hawaiian Gardens, CA (near Long Beach), and grew up in  Modesto, CA. Three of my four grandparents did not complete high school due to family obligations (e.g., helping to raise siblings). My parents are both high school graduates. My dad is a mechanic and worked 10 hour days, standing in an open garage, for most of my life.

Jason Burns, Administrative Special Assistant, Campus Counsel [Photo credit: Gwynn Benner] First-Gen Staff: Jason Burns, (former) Administrative Special Assistant, Campus Counsel I was born and raised in San Diego California. I grew up in South East San Diego, in a socio-economically poor neighborhood. My family was poor relied on welfare and Section 8 housing for a good portion of my childhood. Life was always a struggle but my mom did her best to shield us from the daily stresses she endured to keep the lights on and food on the table. It was this upbringing which lead me in my desire to learn and view an education as a way out of my situation.
L. Esthela Bañuelos, Academic Senate Analyst [Photo credit: Gwynn Benner] First-Gen Staff: L. Esthela Bañuelos, Academic Senate Analyst

I was born and raised in a working class neighborhood in Southeast Los Angeles, a daughter of immigrants who courageously came to an entirely new country seeking a better life.  My route to higher education began at community college. 

First-Gen Graduate Student: Delio Vasquez, History of Consciousness

I was born and raised poor in the Bronx, the first son of Dominican immigrants. My mother, raised in a rural community, was not allowed to study past 8th grade because of her gender. We are a Spanglish-speaking family and I consider myself fortunate to have grown up in the most ethnically diverse community in the country.

Marlene Tromp, Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor First-Gen: Marlene Tromp, Campus Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor

My father was a mechanic in a soda ash plant, a trona mine, and a power plant.  My mother was an old school ("one-ringy-dingy") telephone operator whose health eventually forced her into early retirement.  My Dad was brilliant, but was unable to complete a degree with the financial demands faced by a working-class person.  Our parents both encouraged us