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Chillin' with First-Gens

Spring 2020
Read Time: 3 minutes

Navigating college can be overwhelming for anyone. For first-generation students—those whose parents have no bachelor’s degree—it is even tougher. 

The McKay School offers support to these students in many ways, including providing a “chill day” during finals week, complete with therapy dogs and snack bags. Here, first-gens—including one who has become a mentor—share perspectives in their own words.

Jocelin Meza, '20

Major: Elementary Education
From: Denton, Texas

Two women pack lunch boxes next to a table

I remember going to elementary school and being soconfused because I didn’t speak any English. 

They [my parents] never encouraged me to take the ACT because they had no idea what that entailed or what it meant. Also, I think that was hard when it came to college applications. You think they are just something super easy to fill out, but, in reality, you have to get letters of recommendation, and there is so much that goes into applying to a university. 

Ashley Amiott, '23

Major: Elementary Education
From: Fresno, California

Two women talking with the woman on the left touching the arm of the woman on the right

My mom stopped going [to school] when she was in fifth grade. And after that she just worked her entire life. My dad graduated from high school and, as soon as he graduated, worked in Mexico for a little bit and then came to the United States. So that was it for them. They don’t have any higher education or anything. My dad wanted to come to BYU but couldn’t, so I came here for him. 


Michael Owens

Position: Associate Professor, Educational Leadership and Foundations Department

A woman kneels on the floor petting a service dog.

Although I was strongly encouraged by my parents to attend college, they let me know that if I was going to go, I would need to pay for it. Fortunately I also had friends who invited me to take the PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. In large part, based on earning a National Merit Scholarship, I got noticed and recruited by BYU. Along the way, though, I didn’t quite understand how other facets of college besides my classes were supposed to prepare me for a career. I definitely see the hand of Providence in “falling up” the career path, and I am extremely grateful for kind mentors who saw and encouraged my potential. I hope to help other students who are unsure what to make of themselves in college to find their own upward path. 

Photography by Bradley Slade