Katie Cerulle ’22
The transition to college proves tough for even the most independent of students. Being as young as 17 and removed from family, friends, and the routine of hometown life can cause emotional anguish. For many first generation college students, however, the uneasy feeling many freshmen face is amplified. The Tripod spoke with Manny Bernardo ’23, who explained that seemingly ordinary college endeavors are foreign to students who are the first in their family to attend a four-year institution. Despite their equal qualifications, this lack of provided information makes opportunities for these students seem less apparent.
Manny Bernardo graduated from Wellesley Senior High School in Wellesley, Massachusetts with the class of 2020. Before his junior spring, he did not consider college to be an option due to the socioeconomic status of his family—his mother being an immigrant from Brazil who could not afford a full four-year tuition. He then found a program called Questbridge, which helps high achieving, low income students find colleges that match their monetary needs as well as challenge their intellectual capabilities. This lead him to Trinity College, which gave him a full scholarship as well as an elite education that would prepare him to enter the workforce with a college degree.
Attending a highly-ranked institution does not ensure the success of these students, however, as Manny spoke of the struggles of first generation students that their peers might find alien. “Communication has been integral to my success as a student,” explained Bernardo. “Learning what questions to even ask professors or administrators to find out what opportunities are available is a skill that other students seem to already have.” The mundane tasks that legacy college students complete, such as talking to parents’ friends about internships, discussing meal plans that cost more than the beginner package, or ordering textbooks with a parent’s credit card, are done completely independently by Bernardo and other first generation students. The burden of conferring with numerous operations on campus, that do not extend themselves further to students who need extra support, creates undue stress on these students.
Despite these obstacles, Bernardo, like other first generation students, has found happiness within outlets that Trinity provides. He spoke highly of the first generation student pre-orientation program, citing the benefit of speaking to students of similar backgrounds. Additionally, other programs sponsored by Trinity, such as the Caribbean Students Association fashion show, have allowed Bernardo to meet many interesting people that serve as valued friends throughout his hardships. Lastly, Manny found club rugby, which incorporates physical activity and a team dynamic that created a family away from home.