Meet Jessi.

“I always wanted to go to college, and for me living in this area for the majority of my life, the University of Florida was always right there, but I never really thought it was attainable. It seemed like this distant dream. I never went on campus, never went to basketball games, never chomped until Preview, I never did anything Gator wise because I thought I would never get into UF. But then, my senior year of high school, my guidance counselor really convinced me to apply to the university and she showed me my class rank, and it turns out I was a really great student. It was really because of her that I even applied to UF. A lot of my teachers supported me, because I didn’t really have any family. I was in foster care for the majority of my life, so when it came to actual support, I didn’t really have much, so I didn’t have confidence in myself to go out and do that. I’m really grateful for my teachers and guidance counselor for really pushing me to apply and helping me realize my full potential. When I got here, Preview really set the foundation for me–it was incredible. Really, Machen [Florida Opportunity Scholars] was a huge part of why I acclimated to the university so well, because of my mentor, she has been so helpful. I don’t have anyone to call home to, so when it comes to having a bad day or don’t know what to do, I can ask Jaclyn for advice. I remember my first semester, I didn’t get any sleep at all, so she kind of discussed with me how I could incorporate time management, and she just helped me become more successful overall. Machen really helped me, but the hardest part was not having someone to talk to. But then I was luckily able to get involved and have a strong base to communicate with, so now I feel like I have a strong support system here, even though it may not necessarily be family or someone back in Newberry. They’re here with me every step of the way and that’s comforting. Being first-generation means so much to me. It’s so hard to put into words sometimes, because it’s one of those identity factors-you’ve always been it, so it’s hard to describe what it means to me, it’s just a part of who I am now. But I really think being first-generation is so important to me because I know that I am the one who is deciding what I want for my future and my own foundation. Having a name for it really helps things; I didn’t know first-generation existed until I applied to the college. It’s always been a part of me. My whole life, I was always going to be a first-generation student, I just didn’t realize it was a thing. I didn’t realize my disadvantage, or what is viewed as a disadvantage, was a big unified thing, that there was a community that could help me through it. Once I discovered that, I really embraced it, and it motivates me daily so I can be more successful so i can set a strong foundation for myself and hopefully my future family. That’s kind of my big dream, to have a big family and to make sure the next people in my family and my life are able to be successful too–I guess that it was first-gen is. UF’s really embracing of first-generation students, and it’s so important that the university offers organizations that give you the resources I need, because as a first-gen student I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I think Machen was a huge part of my year and the fact that UF has this program, because I know a lot of first-gen students who don’t have that, even here.”

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