Stories from CSUCI Faculty, Staff & Administrators

The following excerpts are from the stories we heard from FGCS and Non-FGCS among CSUCI’s faculty, staff and administrative employees. We assumed that we would find great differences among the stories of FGCS  and Non-FGCS employees. Interestingly, we learned that the phrase “first generation college student” did not capture the full range of experience for either  FGCS or Non-FGCS employees.  We learned that it is a useful term, but as with all labels, insufficient to capture the complexity of human experience. Stories from participants in both groups were very similar to the experience of CSUCI’s FGCS today.



  • My parents always rented and the house has never been in the best condition. My mom always kept it very clean and that’s what helped. Obviously, not knowing any better does not make you realize under what poor conditions you live. (FGCS Respondent)


  • When I was old enough to attend preschool, my mother took on two additional jobs to afford for me to attend a private preschool. I continued at this school, which was preschool – 12th grades, until 4th grade, when we had to move due to financial reasons (my mother was offered a better paying job that would cover all expenses her previous 3 jobs barely met). However, I had to start attending public school, because there were no private schools in the area. During my 4th grade year, we moved 3 times, and I attended 3 different schools. This was due to the nature of my mother’s job. Also, because myI grew up in an area that was relatively wealthy, we were not. My parents, having lived in the Soviet Union were very clear on the difference between want and need. When I came to college, I owned 2 pairs of pants and would switch between them. (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • My family was middle-class, didn’t have too much spare money but my parents always understood the importance of education. My father always said that instead of leaving me money (after dying) he was leaving me with a good education. (FGCS Respondent)


  • My father was in sales and there were good years and bad years. Due to his profession, we moved quite a bit. I attended 10 schools in 12 years. (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • I knew I had to go to college, but financing was left completely to me. We never really had any money, but was always taught that everything worth earning was done through hard work and dedication. Nothing would ever be handed to me or given for free. (FGCS Respondent)


  • It was an odd combination. Our family lived an upper middle class lifestyle with regard to our home, and we were able to take enrichment activities, attend private schools, and get lots of Christmas presents. However, my parents were extremely frugal and we never went out to eat; very rarely we had fast food. My mom was a stay-at home mom until I was 13. Then she initiated divorce proceedings against my dad. Managing alimony money terrified her and she used to complain to us kids at that point about not having enough money. Until I moved out for college, up until that point we lived in constant fear of our family being broke. (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • I lived in a household that… *Paid our bills, but never on time. *Always had food to eat, but ate a lot of pancakes and hot dogs. *Occasionally had our utilities turned off, but always got them back on within 24-48 hours. *We were clothed, but not in Nike or Addidas. *We had what we needed, but not the newest and greatest like the wealthier students. (FGCS Respondent)


  • My parents had no money for me to go to college and didn’t qualify for enough aid to make it work. I had to earn scholarships or not go. My brother didn’t have the academic ability for scholarships and went in the military instead. (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • I migrated with my parents to the USA when I was only 8 years old. Initially when we transitioned we lived in a small detached trailer with no running water or bathroom we had to utilized the home owner’s bathroom and kitchen to wash our dishes. Fortunately my parents were able to find a one bedroom apartment a month later. However, all through my elementary, middle school and high school we lived in a humble apartment complex. (FGCS Respondent)


  • It was expected of me to go to and graduate from college. It was just understood. I did a lot of research on what I can do to help me as a student.   I took community college classes in the summer, took all the workshops.   I worked while going to school because I needed the money and I read that it could even help me become a better student.   I was a desk attendant for two years, freshman and sophomore. I was an RA for two years, junior and senior year.   I was also a waitress for two years, junior and senior year. (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • Growing up in a poor household often meant getting picked on at school for the clothes you wore, and growing up isolated from neighborhood kids because your parents didn’t know or couldn’t communicate with other parents’ kids. The friends you made was because of your own socialization capabilities at school. That was tough. Parents had to get up early 5-6AM to be at work (field work, factory work) so you had to walk yourself to school. That was also tough on the first day of kindergarden. Luckily, I had siblings to fall back on and show me “the ropes.” Teacher/Parent meetings were tough work for me. I had to do all the translating between teacher and Mom. Luckily, it was all good feedback on my performance at school. (FGCS Respondent)


  • Single mother who had me at 16. Divorced when I was two. Moved every year and changed schools regularly until high school and sometimes without a permanent home (couch surfing). (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • My parents owned their own home; my father was self-employed, small business owner so we did not have health insurance. We only went to the doctor if there was something seriously wrong . In school, we got reduced lunch so I knew we were not rich. I started working in high school to provide for myself – entertainment costs, clothes, etc. (FGCS Respondent)


  • While we were not poor, my parents were both depression-era farmers, so they did not spend money on much of anything at all that wasn’t an absolute necessity. (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • Going to college was not a priority for my family. Getting a full time job after high school was the priority. I did not obtain my bachelor’s degree until in was in my forties. (FGCS Respondent)


  • My parents divorced when I was 3, my mother was supporting me and my brother solely on her income. We were on welfare (food stamps) for a while. (NonFGCS Respondent)


  • I grew up in an area that was relatively wealthy, we were not. My parents, having lived in the Soviet Union were very clear on the difference between want and need. When I came to college, I owned 2 pairs of pants and would switch between them. (NonFGCS Respondent)