For first-gen college students, commencement symbolizes upward mobility

Margie Sosa

Contributing Writer

For first-generation college students, walking across the stage at commencement is something bigger than just us. It symbolizes a start to educational and intergenerational mobility, one of the many reasons why my family chose to immigrate to the U.S. and why I decided to pursue a higher education.

When I found out that commencement was going to be “virtual,” I didn’t know how to feel. While it is important to recognize the gravity of the pandemic, it does not take away the feeling of disappointment of not being able to participate in a traditional commencement ceremony this May. There is no doubt that the College is taking reasonable and responsible measures, but the sentiment of not being able to take part in the ceremony is bittersweet. Commencement was not only an important moment for me but for my family. As a first-generation college student and first-generation American, walking across the stage at commencement was something that kept me motivated through the toughest times. It is what pushed me to keep going despite all those late nights in the library, having to work three part-time jobs and supporting my family back home. This May, I was supposed to walk across that stage not only for myself but for my parents who never had the opportunity to do so. I was supposed to walk across that stage to prove to my two little brothers that they could do it as well.

Commencement was a time to finally show not only to my family but to myself how far we have finally come. How much I have invested into myself, how many disappointments and triumphs we’ve gone through to finally see this finished product. These past four years at Wooster have been anything but easy. There have been many times that I just wanted to pack my bags and go back home. However, as much as I struggled to succeed and fit in, I managed to make Wooster my “home away from home.”

Receiving my degree and having it physically in my hands will be gratifying no matter the setting, but our recognition, our hard work, our achievements and our breakthroughs deserve to be celebrated. Congratulations to the Class of 2020 and all the soon to be first-gen grads; while we’re not living out our last semester of college like we would have wished, we will surely have a story to tell.