Sue Juarez, Spanish student and WLRC employee, was invited to deliver the keynote for Boise State’s first annual First-Generation Celebration on Friday, November 8th. The event celebrated Boise State students, faculty, and staff who are the first in their families to graduate from college.
Juarez was also featured in an article from the Idaho Press:
Boise State University senior Sue Juarez on Friday told students, staff and faculty gathered at the student union that being a first-generation college student doesn’t set people back —it sets them apart.
“You get to be part of an incredible group of individuals who may struggle, but ultimately will succeed. Your family’s path changes with you,” said Juarez, the daughter of Mexican immigrants who came to BSU from her hometown of Jerome.
On Friday, Juarez served as the keynote speaker at a celebration held in the student union’s Jordan Ballroom to cap a week of first-generation student workshops.
Thirty-four percent of BSU’s 2019 incoming freshman identify as first-generation college students, or the first people in their family to go to college, according to the college’s enrollment services.
Throughout the week, BSU hosted first-generation student workshops for those students and ended “First-Gen Week” on Friday with a celebration, student panel and keynote speaker, Juarez, who shared their stories about being first in their family to attend college.
Juarez told the audience it wasn’t until her first year at BSU that she learned what first-generation meant. After learning the term, she said she felt far less alone knowing there were other students who were sharing her experiences.“Although my parents did not have the opportunity for higher education, it has always been something they have valued and instilled in me as being possible,” she said.
Though she had her parents’ support, Juarez said she largely had to navigate college on her own. She said the biggest turning point in finding her way was getting jobs on campus.
“These jobs catapulted me on a journey of self-discovery and growth at a rate I never thought possible,” Juarez said.
She worked in New Student Programs as an orientation leader and later as a family orientation leader. Juarez currently works as a Spanish lab assistant at the World Languages Department.
Those jobs helped her learn how to make her college experience work for her and how to build a support system that helped push her out of her comfort zone, she said. Still, she constantly questioned whether she was worthy of opportunities and other jobs. That support system helped her realize she is worthy.
“There will be moments when people seem more confident or experienced because so and so in their family did it before, but that doesn’t mean you are any less worthy or capable of taking those opportunities,” Juarez said in her speech. “Even if your family or support system doesn’t know exactly what you’re going through, that doesn’t mean they can’t be there for you.”
Later, a panel of six first-generation BSU students and graduates echoed Juarez. Several said they had their parents’ undying support — even if their parents could not answer calculus or college application questions. — Article by Rachel Spacek