Forming an Identity
As a first-generation college student, I experienced a number of challenges. Struggling to find my place in academia, I thought college students sat silently through lectures and studied alone at night in a dimly lit room. Uncertain and confused, I found the idea of higher education intimidating and questioned whether I would be able to graduate. I did not conceive of myself as a college student who could accomplish extraordinary things. It was not until I met Kristin Juarez, my first psychology instructor, that I discovered my potential as a student and a leader.
In my first class with Kristin, I was quiet. The root of this silence was multifaceted, but it stemmed primarily from my mischaracterization of college students. I imagined them to be silent listeners who sacrificed their individuality to anonymity. Kristin challenged that misperception. A firm believer in student participation, she exceled at creating a strong classroom dynamic, communicating to students that they belong and can offer valuable insight. She drew me out of my silence, encouraging me to own my education and capitalize on my talents.
Though many of my high school friends viewed me as a source of support and comfort, I failed to see that this talent could be advantageous to my future. Not realizing I could apply this skill to a career, I lacked a sense of direction. I did know that I felt compelled to help people who struggled with mental health. But, straight out of high school, I was not even aware of what psychology was. Kristin not only instilled in me the foundational principles of psychology, but she also helped me discover my passion for abnormal psychology. Her intuition about my place in the field changed my life.
Kristin also advocated for my growth as a campus leader. Being a first-generation college student herself, she understood my struggle, but she also knew the power of involvement. She nominated me for the President’s Student Leadership Academy, a position for which I was selected. She also encouraged me to run for vice president of Phi Theta Kappa, a position in which I now serve. Her mentorship witnessed my transformation from a silent and confused college student to a campus leader who later presented original research at the international level in Boston, Massachusetts.
If not for Kristin’s outpouring of support, I would have never made it this far. Whether I was at my lowest or highest point, she was never more than a text, email, or office visit away. One of Kristin’s greatest contributions to my success was her time—her scarcest resource. She sacrificed her personal time to help me reach this point. I am now here, just a few months away from graduation. This moment will not only mark a momentous personal accomplishment, but will also be a source of pride for my family. In an end-of-semester farewell card, she simply wrote to me: “You are exactly where you are meant to be.”