“What were you like when you were our age?”
This is the secret question that all middle schoolers have for adults. Kids want to see the child behind the grown-up: the journey that took place from elementary school to college, from hometown to big city, from summer jobs to high-power careers. What music did you listen to when you were twelve? What sports did you play? What books did you read? What dreams did you have for your future?
This spring for our FirstGen Speaker Series we invited Laura Pereyra to talk to our 7th graders about her life and journey. Laura Pereyra is a communications manager at BetterDoctor, a health startup in San Francisco. A first-generation college graduate originally from El Paso, Texas, Laura connected with our students over the joys and challenges of growing up and being the first in her family to pursue a college degree.
“As a first-generation student, having my own adventure in life motivated me to go to college. My parents never went to college so there were no rules on how to get there. It was all up to me. I saw college as a tool I could use to learn how to live life and create my own reality.”
Laura painted a vivid picture for our students of her middle school, high school and college experiences, describing the sports she played, the friends she made and the things she cared about when she was young. As for advice on how to get through college as a first generation student, Laura had some wise words:
“It was hard to work and go to school, but it was worth it to have the creative and intellectual freedom to explore myself and learn how I could contribute to society. The University of Texas at Austin has a saying, ‘What Starts Here Changes the World,’ and I definitely embraced that every day.”
Laura’s education and career trajectory were a wonderful example for our students not only because of her grit and success, but also because she chose to pursue a career working for social change. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin, Laura began her career at the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C. working to advocate and advance progressive policies in the education, immigration, economic and health spaces. She went on to work in education technology, design, and ultimately landed in the health technology field with BetterDoctor here in San Francisco.