First Generation: Sophomores Yesenia Gutierrez and Magaly Kuliger

For many, high school is a normal teenage experience, something that every person goes through, albeit a bit foreign and intimidating. For sophomores Yesenia Gutierrez and Magaly Kuliger, however, high school is much more than that. They cannot ask their parents or older siblings for reassurance that high school is completely manageable because their parents and siblings simply haven’t had the experience. For them, It’s more foreign, completely alien and  difficult experience, as they are both the first in their families to complete middle school and progress to high school.

Both Yesenia and Magaly come from families for which a high school diploma has thus far been unattainable. Magaly’s parents did not reach high school, as her mother left during sixth grade and her father stopped before finishing elementary school. Yesenia’s parents faced the same situation, and Yesenia’s sister’s high school progress was interrupted when her family moved to the MVLA area. Unfortunately, their families’ inexperience with high school means that the journey is more difficult for them.

“It’s a challenge, since there is homework that I may not understand, and I can’t ask [my parents] for help, so I have to either figure it out on my own or I can ask a friend or a teacher the next day,” Magaly said.

Even with their current challenge of completing high school, both Magaly and Yesenia dream of taking their education much further. Magaly has expressed an interest in studying acting, and Yesenia has expressed an interest in studying law in college and beyond.

“I’m in AVID, so we were doing this project on colleges. I was seeing all these opportunities were open, yet you really have to work on the really hard,” Yesenia said. “It’s kinda scary, and I know I have to be working harder than some other students.”

Despite the daunting task ahead of them, however, Magaly and Yesenia know that they can find support in many places. Both family and AVID have served as strong motivators for the both of them in their challenging environment. As first generation high school students, their journey is not merely their own, but that of everyone in their families.

“My [older] sister is a big motivator for me,” Yesenia said. “Every day she tells me that ‘If [you] work hard now, everything [you]’ve done will pay off and you’ll have your career, you’ll have everything set up. You’ll be able to help your family more if you have a career.’ And that motivates me a lot.”

Apart from support from their respective families, Magaly and Yesenia have come to discover that they can find support from sources at school as well. Both girls have been members of AVID since eighth grade. In that time, they have come to view AVID as a sanctuary for when they are struggling with school, as well as a constant motivator and reminder that their goals aren’t too far in the distance.

“It’s like a guardian angel, it’s our second motivator,” Magaly said. “It shows us that we might have different backgrounds, different incomes from our parents [but we can still succeed], and it really helped keep our grades up.”

In addition, AVID has also served as an inspiration for Magaly and Yesenia because of what it represents — a place for all first generation students, no matter what their background is.

“The thing about AVID, it’s not only Hispanic, there’s different races, and it’s cool to know that you’re not alone, it’s not only your race,” Yesenia said. “Race does not display who you are, everyone has their different challenges and we all come together at the same point.”