Tiffany Goetzinger, 1GLI
Because I grew up with a single mom who worked long hours to provide for us, I already knew that I would be having a different college experience than that of my peers because I had a different experience in middle school and high school, too. Field trips that cost money, expensive clothes, weekends (we got after school jobs at 14 as soon as it was legal), were all out of reach for me growing up. As a first-generation student with no financial support available, I worked throughout college and every summer, even with a full scholarship for my grades, because I still needed to have money for food and basic expenses. My identity completely shaped my career path because I got into my work (social work and policy advocacy) because I wanted things to be different for kids who had the same background as me. I feel very fortunate that I was able to go on to graduate school after college, but I still feel pressure and even fear about losing my place. Even a decade later and even though I am not low-income anymore, that experience of fighting really hard to prove yourself worthy and working really hard to fit in—that experience sticks with you. But every day that passes, it does get a little easier. Then you get to a point, like I have, where you’re confident enough to help the next generation by serving as a mentor.