Margarita Davalos-Arias (Kresge '20, Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology)

photo of margarita davalos arias

Background: I am a community college transfer student who held full-time and part-time jobs during my undergraduate education. I also lived in San Jose through undergrad and commuted to Santa Cruz 3-5 times a week on the Highway 17 Express. It was not always a smooth ride, but it was a worthwhile one. As a married woman and the oldest sibling of three, there were many responsibilities outside of school that were non-negotiable. By gaining confidence in myself through self-growth, the support from my family at home, and friends in Santa Cruz I graduated in Fall 2020. I earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology

What motivated me to go to college: Acknowledging that attending college will aid in reaching one of my life goals of helping others. My immigrant parents always encouraged me to pursue higher education. My dad would say, "yo trabajo con mis manos pero tu y la gente que sigue estudiando trabaja con su mente". Though I understood his message, it also made me appreciate physical labor. Especially after watching them work day and night yet still stressing about bills. Their struggle made me want to work for a better future for us and those that would come after; in my mind that translated to pursuing higher education. Discovering that I wanted to help others by committing to a career in the healthcare field provided a surge in my motivation by strengthening my reason for showing up every day.

What's the biggest challenge you encountered as a first-gen student and how did you overcome it?Connecting with professors, peers, and resources was always harsh for me as I dealt with impostors syndrome throughout my college career. I did not feel comfortable taking up space even in spaces where I was encouraged to. After getting positive feedback when I pushed myself to show up and communicate with my peers, I was able to gain the confidence to continue doing so. Attending workshops and tutoring services helped me be physically in those places, the people there eased my fears by assisting me to be present mentally. The fear of being "discovered"' as a fraud blossomed into excitement and words of encouragement so that others could also step outside their comfort zone.

What would you tell my first-year self now? Believe in yourself! You are amazing and hard work pays off. It may not be easy but it is definitely worth it! Go ahead and attend that club meeting, workshop, or professors’ office hours. Not being good at one thing the first time does not determine failure. Learning to fail has been one of my greatest achievements as that is how you learn, and best of all you can help others not commit your mistakes.

What was the best thing about your college experience? Meeting people with similar future goals and completely different backgrounds. Which recurrently occurred while striking conversations with peers in random locations like bus stops, on bus rides, and in downtown Santa Cruz.

How being a first-generation student has influenced me: Being a first-gen student has encouraged me to story tell and communicate with my colleagues. Some of the moments that inspired me the most in my college journey involved listening to alumni and peers speak about their experiences. Hearing about them staying true to themselves and using it as an advantage in social or work settings has encouraged me to do the same. Through their struggle, I have learned to accept mine as well as share it with others.