Graduate in First-Generation stoll celebrates

How Did a College Degree Change Your Life?

  • BY Cal State East Bay
  • November 9, 2021

A college degree can be transformative. The U.S. Department of Education estimates that over a lifetime, individuals with a Bachelor's degree make 84% more than those with only a high school diploma.

At Cal State East Bay, more than 60% of students are the first in their family to attend college. And many of Cal State East Bay’s faculty and staff were once first-generation students themselves. 

In celebration of this week’s inaugural First Generation Student Week at the university, we asked some of those faculty and staff how a college degree has transformed their life. Here is what they said:

Sarah Aubert, Lead Curriculum Analyst, Academic Affairs

"As a first-gen student, the journey to achieving my college degree exposed me to a world outside of my own filled with intellectual reasoning and thought exchange, self-exploration, and new ways of seeing. Ultimately, it provided me with a heightened sense of confidence in myself and my future."

Rocio Camarena, University Diversity Office

"A college degree changed my life because it gave me access to spaces and people that I would have never known about otherwise. Not only did it help increase my social capital but during my time as a student here, I connected with people who later became my mentors, family, and future colleagues."

Martin Castillo, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs - Campus Life

“As a first-generation student, attaining a college degree transformed my doubt in whether I could achieve my dreams into belief in my ability to succeed in the world.  Additionally, my college degree helped to inspire the future generations in my family into believing that they could achieve similar successes.” 

Edward Chavez, Executive Director of Hayward Promise Neighborhoods

“I grew up undocumented in Hayward during a time when students like me did not have the same college resources that we see today. Mentors and programs helped me get to college and become the first in my family to complete a bachelor’s and master’s degree. College enabled me to connect learning with social justice issues that have shaped my work in my community today.” 

Denise Johnson, Executive Assistant to the Provost

"Independently pursuing and navigating the pursuit of a doctorate degree, while simultaneously breaking down stereotypes and defying implicit biases as a first generation college student, has given me the confidence that my intellect and fortitude are more than sufficient to overcome any obstacle in my path and exceed any expectation laid out before me. I now know with absolute certainty that through perseverance, I can succeed at anything I put my mind to."  

Antonio Martinez, EOP Counselor

"As a first-generation student, getting my degree was how I tried to thank my mother and grandmother for all the sacrifices they made so that I could pursue my education. Getting my degree was my way of challenging the societal stereotypes of being a Latinx male who grew up in poverty. Getting my degree was my way of representing my community and myself in the best way possible."   

Michelle Rippy, Assistant Professor, Department of Criminal Justice

"As a first-generation student, my education at CSUEB provided a solid foundation for my future and sparked an innovative mindset. I never could have imagined how many doors would be opened and the opportunities that become available from earning my undergraduate degree. CSUEB helped me to flourish in my dream career and created a life-long learner."  

Christine Tinga, Office of Admissions (earned BA at age 57 MA at age 60)

“My college experience supports my belief in life-long education. Working in Freshman Admissions provides opportunities for me to assist and to learn from the students as well as my co-workers.” 

Andrew Yunker, Lecturer, General Studies

“As a student obtaining a higher educational degree meant something different to me then when I actually achieved it.  I didn't just go through this four year degree, I grew through it.  Throughout my school experience I had many dark days but once I completed my degree I realized it was in those dark days that I built characteristics like resilience, personal responsibility, and hope.  When I received my degree in the mail I noticed the following "on recommendation of the faculty" and these words made me realize it wasn't just me and my family that was recognizing my accomplishment.”