In honor of #ProofPointDay and first-generation college students and graduates everywhere, EP leaders reflect on why today matters so much for all of us, and for our work.
Celebrating the First to Climb the Mountain
Chastity Lord, who’s the brain-mother of Proof Point Day, shared that she got the idea when she saw stickers on people’s cars that said 26.2 and 13.1, meaning that they’d run a marathon or a half marathon.
Her thinking went like this: While running those lengths is impressive, and we should be proud of those achievements, why aren’t those of us who have been the first to climb the mountain to college celebrating that?
And why don’t we all—whether we are first generation college goers or not—recognize and honor the incredible effort, perseverance, grit, optimism, and courage of those who are first in their family to attend college?
Yeah, why not?
If you don’t know Chastity, she’s one of the most determined, thoughtful, and truthful people I know, and so when she shared this idea, I listened closely and it just made so much sense.
I thought of my father, Philp McLaughlin. He was a first generation college goer, graduating from Boston College in the early 60s. He never talked about what it was like to be the first in his family, let alone talking about it with pride.
My father’s car had several stickers on its rearview window of the colleges his five children attended, with great financial sacrifice on my parents’ part, help through student loans, summer and school jobs, and ROTC.
Thinking about that now…there should have been a Proof Point sticker on his car as well.
– Frances McLaughlin, President, Education Pioneers
Fulfilling the Promise of the American Dream for All
#ProofPointDay means that we are closer to fulfilling the promise that education is the “the great equalizer” in this country. It means we are closer to making the American Dream a reality for talented, diverse young people who are drawing courage and inspiration from those who came before them while paving the path for those who follow behind them.
Braven is proud to work with our resilient and committed first-generation students as we work to support underrepresented young people through and beyond college into a strong first job, so they flourish in life and we see the leadership in this nation more closely mirror the diversity of our people.
– Aimée Eubanks Davis, CEO and Founder, Braven, and Board Member, Education Pioneers
Because Breaking Through Changes Lives
When I was deciding whom to invite as the first keynote speaker to address the founding class of Education Pioneers Fellows in 2004, it was an easy choice.
I turned immediately to Francisco Jiménez, a long-time family friend and hero of mine who has written powerful books (including The Circuit and Breaking Through) about his experience growing up as an undocumented child in California.
After crossing the Mexican border in 1947 at age four and spending much of his childhood working in the fields of California without consistent access to a high-quality education, Francisco overcame huge obstacles and long odds to become a first-generation college graduate from Santa Clara University, get his PhD from Columbia University, and return to Santa Clara University where he was a distinguished, award-winning professor until his recent retirement.
Francisco and his wife Laura also raised three boys who each went on to attain advanced degrees and are using their great gifts to make a difference in the world: Pancho is a Senior Lecturer at Santa Clara University and an amazing ceramic artist; Miguel works in finance for a tech company and serves on Education Pioneers’ Board of Directors; and Tomás is Associate Professor of Sociology and Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University.
Their lives and countless others have been fundamentally changed because Francisco made it to-and-through college.
Given our nation’s failure to educate millions of students of color from low-income families to realize their great potential, Francisco’s #ProofPointDay story is a strong reminder to me of why we do this work and a challenge to all of us to make his and other first-generation stories of success the norm, not a powerful exception.
-- Scott Morgan, Founder and CEO, Education Pioneers
Giving Back to Other First-Generation Students
I am a first-generation college graduate who grew up on a farm as a scrappy kid bailing hay, picking rocks, and playing in the woods. While my family had a very humble upbringing, my parents always emphasized the importance of education despite not going to college themselves.
They instilled a tremendous work ethic, a sense of community, and the importance of building strong relationships. As a result of their efforts all five of their children not only went on to college, but we also received our master’s degrees. Working in the education sector is important to me given my background and my family.
Being a first-generation has empowered me to be a role model for my family as I am the first female on my mother’s side of the family who has a master’s degree. It has also kept me grounded in the work I do every day on behalf of other first-generation students. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded to me as a result of education and navigating this process.
-- Sara Spanier, Director, Denver, Education Pioneers