Damaris Serrato (College Nine '20, Intensive Psychology)

photo of damaris serrato smiling in striped shirt in front of courtyardBackground: I am a first-generation psychology student. I am originally from Guadalajara, Mexico but my hometown is Salinas, CA. My family migrated to the US when I was very young and I was blessed to be raised by hard-working and loving parents, along with an older sister and younger brother. As the middle child, I took, and continue to take, the role of the rebel very seriously and like to push the boundaries and expectations my parents and society has set for me. I did well academically, but also enjoyed activities that involved getting “down and dirty” like paintballing, different sports, skiing, etc. 

What motivated me to go to college: From a young age, my parents instilled in me the idea that education was the key to success and growing up, I saw the impact having a degree can make on my life and others. 

What’s the biggest challenge I encountered as a first-generation student and how I overcame it: Applying and navigating college was a tough experience because it was the first time I wasn't able to lean on my parents for support. Luckily, my older sister went through that experience first and was able to guide me. Being part of programs that helped me with the transition was also a crucial component of my success.

How my background has helped me: Being a middle child that did not like to conform to the gender roles set by my culture and society has allowed me to develop a sense of confidence and drive to challenge things that do not suit me. I have learned to improvise and find creative ways to achieve my goals and be successful.

What I would tell my first-year self: “This new chapter you are about to begin will be challenging and you will need to lean on others for support. Make sure you reach out to others and find that support group/community at school. Also, make sure to devote time to do self-care and take care of your mental health.”

The best thing about my college experience was: The freedom to explore who I am, all the new people and experiences, and countless opportunities to explore my interests.

How being a first-generation student influences me (and/or my work) now: I have a passion for helping people and being first-gen has opened up the door to a new population of students that I can help.