Small Body, Big Dreams

nc1-e1509748844344.jpg  By: Naela Cabrera

Being a first-generation college student is hard. Being the oldest sibling is also hard sometimes. When you are both, it gets even harder. Having a role like this can come with a lot of responsibility, but mostly pressure. For first-generation students of color, the pressure to encourage the younger generation to receive a higher education is something many experience due to our community’s circumstances. In my experience, having a 15 year gap between me and my only other sibling makes my job a little more challenging, and the pressure a little higher. Yet, there has never been a day when I don’t feel appreciative of my little brother and the opportunity I have to encourage his future higher education goals.

The start of my college journey was very challenging for him. I was the only other person he counted on to be a friend, playmate and sometimes parent, which made me realize that it was extremely important to stay close and connected to my family. But although visiting my family only involves a 50-minute drive, I found balancing classes, work, and extracurriculars while making time for him was, at times, physically and mentally challenging. I then thought to myself, what would be easier to do? If I can’t continuously go to him, he could come to me! I quickly took advantage of all the fun, kid-friendly things to do on campus and in downtown Portland.

What is the best way to get kids active and ready for a midday nap while you catch up on homework? Take them to Campus Rec. One of our first spots was Campus Rec because working there taught me about their Youth Program. During a fall term, for six straight Saturdays he would spend the day with me getting active, catching up on play time, and taking a cool down walk through the farmers market afterwards. The days started with an early morning youth swim lesson, then sometimes lead to hours of rock climbing and court activities like soccer, basketball, and his favorite – table tennis. Soon enough Campus Rec became his spot! My coworkers would see him come up the stairs and immediately cheer him on, greet him and make him feel appreciated much like they do with a lot of the youth that come by our facility. Another favorite activity has been Spooky Saturday, which just went on this past weekend for kiddos in the Halloween spirit.  

Thanks to resources like the Youth Program, on and off campus activities and my willingness to take time and appreciate my little brother made it possible to bring a part of home and family values with me to my experience at PSU. Not only does this help cool down the pressure of making my first-generation experience valuable for my family, but it also allows my little brother to have exposure to the college setting and what it means. Just last night we continued our campus visiting routine when he attended the Day of the Dead annual cultural celebration with me, a very important family tradition for both of us.

English 101: A sentimental summer lesson

By: Sharon Jackson

England was absolutely more than I could ever ask for. I have been to London, to the south in Devon, to the north in Chester, and to the phenomenal countryside in Yorkshire. I have seen medieval churches, ancient Roman remains, and pubs that date back to the Domesday Book of 1086. I have eaten Devonshire cream teas, Cornish pasties, and full English breakfasts complete even with a bit of black pudding, and I liked it. My two week venture felt like an accelerated Summer term at Portland State University!

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Considering all the splendid things that are England, the memories that I smile at most are the ones that involve spending time with my new family thanks to my boyfriend. From watching a movie around a cozy fire at Grandma’s house, spaghetti bolognese at Uncle Graham’s, a blast to the past in Huyton [the town where my boyfriend grew up] to the 90th birthday party for the man who is responsible for most of this very large and very loving family [seriously, all are not pictured].

Nevertheless, I am glad to be home and anticipating and preparing for another rigorous year at PSU. The most important thing that I gained from this trip is a reminder that in the coming endless hours of studying, gallons of caffeine and white nights that any college student will undoubtedly endure, I will always remember to make time for family and friends. At the end of the day, all we truly have are the people in our lives.

How will you make time for your family and friends this school year?

My mother’s visit

When I was waiting for my mother at PDX airport, I was little bit nervous. I hadn’t seen her almost two years,and I was thinking about how I would react to her. In Japan, hugging is not a common way of greeting. I have never hugged my family. But I could not really remember how I acted towards her when I was glad to see her.

When she came out from the exit, we just said “hi” to each other. She immediately started to talk about how she had had a very long walk in the LA airport to get to the correct gate for her flight to Portland. It seemed like we were not sure how to act around each other.

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Keep Calm, and Blue Punch Buggy!

Blue Punch Buggy!Midterms are here and brought stress attacks with them. We’re going into crunch time for the term, and midterms, lab reports, papers are all starting to hit due dates. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be stressed and worried about grades and starting to spend less time with friends and loved ones, and more time in your books or notes trying to get that one extra question correct come test time.

We tend to forget, during this time of the year, that the world exists outside of our classes (or maybe you forget that the classes exist outside of the world, if you are doing poorly. Who knows?), but if you take a moment to relax (and everyone should!) what do you do to take a night off? For me, it’s watching movies with my guy. Our favorite is Lilo & Stitch.

So I say during the course of midterms and lab reports being due remember to take a night off and enjoy yourself. Or keep calm and Blue Punch Buggy! And remember… No punch back!

Portland State is More Than a School.

Bosc-Pear-Harvest-BinThe first university I visited during my middle school years was Portland State. I vaguely remember seeing the Smith cafeteria and the Broadway computer lab. At the time, I was curious about attending college, but by my freshman year in high school, I knew I was going to college. I had no school in mind, but I was determined to enroll with or without financial aid.

During my senior year in high school, I made a trip to Phoenix, Arizona. All of my mother’s side of the family moved there a decade ago. A cousin of mine was attending Arizona State, and she suggested that I should enroll there. I visited the enormous campus and was excited at the idea of leaving Oregon for something different. Ultimately, I chose to stay and enroll into Portland State for financial and family reasons.

I had come to the conclusion that I simply could not afford to attend Arizona State. My lack of knowledge about financial aid blurred an opportunity for me to go out of state. I had worked hard in my rigorous classes in high school and had harvested pears and cherries during the same time. However, many low-income people of color do not have access to a solid education let alone higher education.

I have been fortunate and privileged to have both. Portland State and all the institutions of higher learning are more than just a mascot, brand or colors. They are the places where we should gain knowledge, develop our skills, and empower ourselves. It has been a journey for me to mold a better life and to give back to my family and community.

Finally, a Place to Call My Home and People to Call My Family.

homeI have lived on campus for three years, and in three different locations. Living in the city was a drastic change for me. I grew up in a rural area where I had no neighbors, surrounded instead by acres of orchards. While living in the city brought me new experiences, it was expensive and at times lonesome for me.

I have had a total of seven male roommates, have lived alone, and at one point, I lived with five roommates. One can just imagine how things went living in a place with five guys. We were all single, young, and a bit naive  Yet, throwing parties, going out, hanging out as a group, and goofing around just wasn’t for me. At the end of the day, I would always feel alone or being left out of something meaningful.

My mornings, evenings, and my life are now spent with my new family. I moved in with my girlfriend this past summer into her sister’s house in Oregon City. It’s a full house; there are two cats, two dogs, her husband, her sister in law, and her 2 year old son who, I like to say, is the king of the house. It’s a great welcoming and friendly environment. I often hear the little boy call out everyone’s name from across the house. I get up every weekday at 7 to get ready for my day and help my girlfriend get prepared as well. I see the cats walking back and forth, and I hear the dogs in the yard barking for attention.

At 22, I love my new home, my girlfriend, my new family, and myself. I have left behind my single, lonesome, and confused life. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

Learning From Alexis

Alexis PicIn 2013, my ambition is to become more like my friend Alexis. She is a senior at PSU and has seen her family only five times since starting school four and half years ago.

I just got back from seeing my family in Colorado at Christmas, and it was the most important thing I did all year. The opportunity to see my family is a rare treat; traveling to another state requires plenty of money and planning that restricts me to only two visits a year, three if I’m lucky.

It’s easy for me to feel sorry for myself when I compare to friends whose families live close by in Oregon, but not at all easy when I look at Alexis.

She was born on Saipan, an island you’ve probably never heard of, and is one of the most dedicated students I have ever met. Most students have their entire junior and senior years of high school to decide if and where to go to college; Alexis was given the duration of one phone call to commit to moving to Oregon and left the very next day.

Despite being far from home, I have never heard Alexis complain about attending PSU, only about how much she loves and misses her family. What I admire most about Alexis is her perseverance and gratitude; always thankful to be going to school and eager to give back to Saipan.

It is time to make gratitude a priority; I am thankful for my family, both in Colorado and Oregon, and for the new friends I’ve made who continue to inspire me.  Your turn!