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.