Meet Marissa.

“It was pretty difficult, figuring out college, because I had no one to guide me–it was really all my mentors in high school that helped me with the application process, where I should apply, and I just kind of applied to all the big schools. So when I started getting acceptances, I knew I was going somewhere. But UF gave me a scholarship–the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program was really my gateway to school. Even though a lot of people didn’t believe in me–my biology teacher actually told me I wouldn’t graduate high school, let alone go to college–it was kind of discouraging with all the input from teachers that weren’t thinking that I would be successful, but I did it. I was also being discouraged from the barriers that I faced, not so much people telling me I couldn’t do it at UF, but just the barriers that I faced being a first-generation student and not knowing the hierarchy and the bureaucracy of everything that goes on at the University of Florida. It was really difficult to me, especially going in and not really succeeding in my classes very well, it was just hard. I was dealing with my aunt’s passing as well, but the fact that I was retained into my second year was all thanks to the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars Program. The hardest thing to adjust to was understanding various privileges. Going into a university setting where it is a predominantly white institution, very privileged as far as socioeconomic status, and being in a classroom next to all those students was just astonishing to me–they could just go out and buy a new iPad if theirs broke and I couldn’t even get a first iPad. It was hard to recognize those privileges and see that everyone didn’t grow up in the same way that I did, and now¬†that we’re both here, we are expected to be on that same level. Like everyone can go out to eat every night or everyone can buy a new iPhone, but I can’t. “

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