Being the "First" Voices of Support
Welcome to the companion site for the eBook Being the "First": A Narrative Inquiry into the Funds of Knowledge of First Generation College Students in Teacher Education.
When I first met Lisa I had just moved into town and I was looking for a baby sitter. And I contacted the local teachers because they usually know who's responsible and decent kids and the local history teacher put me onto having Lisa babysit for me.
We talked a lot about difficulties with roommates and getting around campus and dealing with all the different types of students that she was now having to interact with, coming from Atchison County schools you fit into the niches a lot better, there she was trying to find the niche, trying to figure out which group she was with and it just took her a while, but she got there.
She was worried about getting through the classes and whether she could handle college or not. She's never really been concerned about whether she can handle the teaching job.
Well she got up to the end of her junior year and I was asking her if she had done any scholarships, had she applied to college yet, and she didn't really know how to go about doing that and so we got online and we walked through the application. We started looking at financial aid and scholarships. I got her the Big Book of Scholarships from Barnes and Noble, told her to go through that trying to find if there was anything she could get. Of course that's old school, the new way to do it is just search the internet and find all the scholarships, but there was a lot of input that she didn't qualify for anything and I really think she could have qualified for quite a few had she put in for them.
When she was younger, she got to go with me a lot and she loves to do the country western stars, the old country stars that Aunt Betty likes to do, and she loves antiques and museums and when she was quite small we got to where we would do those things when she got to go with aunt Betty. And yes we did a lot of talking. She used to get to spend the night with aunt Betty and we did a lot of talking and a lot of things she shared with aunt Betty that I know she never shared with anyone else. And then later then for five years, she and aunt Betty didn't get to do anything together but now that she's back in college on her own, we're trying to make up some time.
Looking back at when I went to school it was always the teachers that had time for us, would answer questions, act like they cared about us instead of just standing up there saying what they had to say, and when the bell rung didn't care whether what happened to you. Those that were caring, I think meant the most to me and influenced me the most.
I am a nail tech. I work at a local salon here in Manhattan, Toes and Tips. Before I came to Missouri, I wanted to have a job that I could pretty much do anywhere so that I could have a job and provide that stable financial foundation to help out my Mom and that was what we decided on, me and my fiancee. We went to a beauty school in Huntington Beach and got our hours and then came out here shortly after, very shortly. We wanted to make sure they could go to college and have all the opportunities that most kids are presented with. We believed in that. So that's what we wanted, I didn't want her to do something where you make some quick cash and you feel like you're doing something, when in actuality you're not doing much at all. To have so much potential, I guess you could say that I have some expectations of my own that I expect of them, that I want them to fulfill for themselves as well as for myself so that I don't feel like maybe I didn't come out here for any reason, that I wasted my time out here.
Well first thing, it was easy on one hand because she does everything herself. So she took care of everything. She made all the phone calls, filled out all the forms and you pretty much weren't allowed to see any of it or participate in it at all because she took care of it. So on one hand that was real easy, but as her Dad, watching her grow up and transition to adulthood and knowing that she was going off to college and I wouldn't be able to see her everyday or whenever I wanted to, that was pretty difficult. But you're overwhelmed with pride and excitement for them, so you get over it.
She's doing something that her Mom and Dad never did, and as far as I know most of her grandparents never did. Very few of us went to college, so it's pretty exciting to see her go off to college.
She did struggle a little bit, but I felt like probably almost all kids do being away from home for the first time and everything's new. Just being there to talk to her and tell her what a rockstar she is and telling her to be her best friend, not to beat so much up on herself when she makes mistakes or forgets things. But I just supported her by listening to her telling me how hard things were and reminding her that she would be home soon and she was going to do well and in the end she'd look back and think that was easy.
You know I was thinking about that this morning. I wonder if it hadn't been Jessica, my first child entering into higher education, how different that might have been because she is always kind of taking the initiative. I did tell her she would go to college, no ifs ands or buts, and constantly said you need to talk to your counselor, you need to talk to your counselor, because I didn't feel like I could really help her in that journey. But she did take a lot of initiative herself to do it and she's kind of led us through it so I'm very proud of her, very proud of her.
It was never a question of if, it was always absolute and with me struggling so hard to make a living and always living in fear that it wouldn't be enough and when I first started working I made so much more money than my peers because they went off to college and they thought I had the great life because I had the apartment and I had a job, but they passed me up, three years out of college. They were living in a nicer apartment, driving nicer cars and nobody should work 90 hours a week, just to pay the rent. So, yeah, she was going to go to college.
Hoping that Ciera would go into some field that will challenge her everyday. She is a child with ADHD, and she has to multi-function all the time. If you give her one thing to do and only one thing, she becomes bored with it and she'll have to do something else. It took us a lot to learn that, but our hopes for her was that she would do something that would keep her interested everyday and as far as this area, we did it mainly because we like the area, and we thought this would be a great place to raise a child and she's never known another place. She came into this house and she lived in this house until she went to college.
Well, let's see, the first time that I met her was at a Braum's Ice Cream store in Emporia. She had been with a foster family since she was nine months old. She was 18 months old then, and we met them there and we had applied for adoption. We had applied for permanent placement to start with, and that meant that we could have a child and if everything worked out okay, we could apply for adoption. So we went that route instead of being just foster parents and we got to know Ciera for about a month I guess. We visited her on the weekends, and then we took her for a day and then we took her home with us, for the night and just got to know her that way. And they'd show her pictures of us, and call us Mom and Dad, and that's how she came to know us as Mom and Dad, and when we eventually brought her home, about a month and half later, she's been with us ever since. We adopted her April before her third birthday. Yeah, April before her third birthday.
She was in gifted classes throughout junior high school and would have been in high school but the district would not accept her as a gifted child because the school district stopped at this road. Yeah. And because we were out of the district and going to that school they wouldn't recognize her as part of the gifted program.
And I did not go to college and my brother didn't go to college and my sister didn't got to college. None of us did. And Allan and Sandy – I was married before and Allan and Sandy – Allan went to welding school and didn't quite finish it before Cardwell hired him out of the school, and Sandy went to, she became a hairdresser. She went to trade school. Allan has worked his way up in the work place. He is a manufacturing engineer now. And I'm really proud of both him and Sandy. They've done well, but they don't have the opportunities that kids need nowadays for college or with a college degree. Ciera, we saw her potential early on and realized we needed to be sure she went to college no matter what, so we strived for that and it's happened.
You learn a lot of life lessons at a young age and stuff and so and you just retain that stuff as the years go on. I'm more closer to my grandma than my grandpa because he's gone a lot and like I was telling you before that I pretty just went everywhere with her, like especially when I was younger. She took really good care of me. It got to a point where I was pretty much taking care of her, when she got cancer and everything and she couldn't really work so a lot of times, as I got older the roles were switched pretty much and so by from from age ten on, until she passed away I was pretty much inside helping her with a lot of stuff and as her health declined and everything, responsibilities just kinda boosted up. Helping her to go to bathroom and things like that, dressing her sometimes, you had to do a lot of stuff that probably would be more fit for somebody else like home hospice or something like that and I ended up doing a lot of that stuff, so I don't regret any of that. That made me, that gave me some character, build character and I look back and I'm glad that I was able to help her while she was still alive. I remember when she got close, I didn't know it but it was close before she died, and she was just in tears. I remember her being in tears all the time, she was in so much pain.
I remember one night, she asked if I could walk her to the bathroom and I remember walking her back to her bedroom, because our bedrooms were connected, and I helped her in bed and she was just just like Kris thank you so much for helping me out. She said, "I wouldn't be alive today if it were not for you," and I remember when I was a kid I was like, okay, I'm trying to go back to my cartoons and everything, but looking back on that, I'm like, I was the last person she talked to before she passed away and that's like the last thing she said to me. So I thought that was pretty cool and everything – that she put everything, she gave me so much credit, like I didn't think I was helping her stay alive, but I was definitely helping her around the house and things like that. So she's definitely a huge part, not even with me just taking care, but about the things she would teach me, and it wasn't like education type of stuff that was like at to school, but just how to run a household and stuff like that, how to do things in the house, and growing up fast essentially. Like, I grew up really fast so I learned a lot of stuff from her that helped me up to this day.
Angelica's sister interviews her parents
Daughter's voice: Part of what this program is doing is simply informing, helping other parents like you who have children who just arrived, children from migrants, first generation students. What can you say to these parents? Many of them worry about money, they worry about many other things as well. What would you tell them?
Father's voice: Look, the best thing they could do, for example, the best thing I did was work, and your Mom stayed home to give you coffee in the morning, to wake you up, give you clean clothes so you could go to school and this is what helped me, and prepare your morning coffee to send you to school with an open mind. This is why my children grew up lacking many things we couldn't give them, because your mother watched you and I worked to be support of the house.
Daughter's voice: When you saw we started going to college, did you ever question… this is to give advice to parents that are about to go through just like your family went through, what would you tell those parents?
Mother's voice: Well, to those parents, so they can succeed just like our children did, I would say that each of them, just like each of our children did, pay their own college. I think this is the best legacy we can leave to our children, as they will appreciate it since they are the ones paying. We also knew we couldn't afford to give them an education, paying their college, and therefore each of you had to do it. For me this is something very… it's better than if I would have paid for your college. One could say this is the best thing I could leave behind for my children.
Daughter's voice: Did you go to Angelica's graduation?
Parents: Yes. Yes, we both went.
Father's voice: I went. It was right after I was released from the hospital, but I wanted to go so she could feel proud of me as I attended still sick but I was able to make it. I was just released from the hospital.
Daughter's voice: How did you feel seeing your daughter?
Father's voice: Well that was something I had never experienced in my family because none of us further an education, none of us went to college. It feels good to see my daughter, it feels good to see she went to college, to see she completed her college career. I thank God all my children completed a college career.
Mother's voice: This is the best reward my children can give me, when they graduate and watching them being successful. This fills me with happiness.
Angelica's sister interviews her parents
Daughter's voice: What were your thoughts, when she told you that she was going to start the classes to become a teacher?
Father's voice: Well, we thought as always, that everything is hard, but if she put an effort she was going to make it.
Mother's voice: I thought she was going to make it. She told us she wanted to be a teacher and she asked what we thought about it since we already have a teacher in the family. Our oldest child is a teacher and I remember your father said, "Even I want to be a teacher. Why can't we have another teacher in the family?"
Father's voice: If there's already one in the family, why can't there be two?
Angelica's sister interviews her parents
Daughter's voice: How was Angelica growing up as a child?
Father's voice: Very cheerful, very affectionate, very happy, and talkative.
Mother's voice: She enjoyed exercising, using her legs, she would lift them since she was very little. At a very young age, I think it was in first grade, she said that she wanted to be a teacher. There is a paper where she wrote that she wanted to be a teacher when she grows up and it has been granted.
Father's voice: Each parent who pays attention to their children, has an idea of what they want to be when they grow up.
Daughter's voice: Angelica talked about being a bit of a rebel during her youth. Did you ever worry about her? For the decisions she was making at the time?
Father's voice: Yes, yes, we worried about her getting expelled from school if she ever got in a fight or did something like that, but thank God it never got to this extent. But yes, she was a bit rebellious growing up.
Mother's voice: Just like any other youth at this age.
Father's voice: Yes, just like any other youth. There are troublemakers but she was never the instigator. There always had to be someone who provoked her so she could defend herself. You know her.
Angelica's sister interviews her parents
Daughter's voice: What brought you to Dodge City?
Mother's voice: Work. Work, the beef packing plant because my husband worked for five years in Wichita.
Father's voice: A shift was shut down where I used to work and we were asked if we wanted to move here so we moved here, following work.
Mother's voice: They gave him a pass. Each employee received $500 to relocate here. That's what brought us here, and it's still what's keeping us here.
father's voice: And it's still what keeps us here because it's been around 31 years since then, right?
Daughter's voice: Do you think that making the decision to come to this country made your life better?
Father's voice: Oh yes! It's something I will never regret. I thank God we always managed to provide a roof and food for my children. Education not so much as we didn't go to college but we are very proud of each of our children because they worked for everything they have accomplished in life and school. But no, up until now I don't regret coming to this country and bringing my family.
Mother's voice: Let alone being in this town. I think it makes a difference living in a small town to raise children like mine.
Daughter's voice: They drove by the green house you used to live in.
Father's voice: Yes, tell them it was a very small house for all of us, and I didn't like being on rent. I always wanted to own something even if it was small or ugly but I wanted it to be mine.
Mother's voice: Even if it was a humble house but we wanted it to be ours.
I wish I could find this guy, his name was Phil. And Phil lived right in this house right here and he had a big orange pick-up truck and he had this mustache, this long mustache and he had motorcycles and he would bring his motorcycles out and we were in awe of these amazing dirt-bike motorcycles. And he became so engaged with us as kids that he would take us to these BMX bike trails And he actually would enter us and let us race our old raggedy bikes and many of us would win. I mean we'd win these BMX deals and we'd have this old ratty bikes. Well one year, Phil bought us a brand new bike and it was called – the name of the bike was called Astrabula, it was this funny name, but I had this great mag wheels and he would load it up in his orange truck, and we would go out and it was really neat that that guy invested so much in us and just allowed us to be in his garage hanging out. And then next door to him was another guy, who we didn't really know, but he put a basketball goal up in his backyard and he'd let us come and play basketball whenever we wanted. And that was something to me that I thought was pretty amazing, is probably the reason that today we have a basketball goal in our backyard and the neighborhood kids come up whenever they want and I was at a track meet the other day and I ran into a kid who used to live in our neighborhood and now he's a sophomore and he goes to Olathe East High School. And I ran into him, I saw him and the first thing out of his mouth he said, "Do you still play basketball in your backyard?" And I said, "Yeah," and he had to say three or four times, "Man I miss playing basketball back there, I really miss coming up there and playing basketball." And I think a lot of it had to do with this neighbor who allowed us to play basketball in his backyard. It's just a way for us to give back to the community, but unless someone opens a door of grace and allows you to come into their backyard, you really don't, you maybe don't think that it's important, but when you get older you realize, those are really important things.
This house here, I would walk from Washington and come over across here. This house here was the Reed family, they were an African American family, Mrs. Reed and Mr. Al Reed. They owned a car detail business right here. I used to cut through their yard everyday as a young man, to get to the zoo to meet my buddies and stuff at the swimming pool, and I remember one day Mr. Reed yelled at me, "Hey boy, why are you cutting through my yard?" Well he started putting me into work and for a quarter I would dump his trash and eventually, I was about ten at the time, and he has photos of me pushing a lawn mower not from the top bar but from the lower bar, and I used to mow the lawn for him and he used to have a hedge right here and I had to trim his hedges all the time, and then he passed away. And so I would come and take care of Mrs. Reed and do the yard and the upkeep and things. I would come see her when I was off of college and come home, come see her for Christmas and things. She passed away and she actually left me in her will. Yeah, she was a really good woman, yes.
Pues este es por los padres que nomás hablan español.
This is for the Spanish speaking parents.
Yo platico los dos idiomas, pero cuando yo estoy un estudiante aquí en Garden City, platican nomas inglés. Inglés, puro inglés cuando yo estaba estudiante……Y también el colegio, pero hoy yo sabe que es muy importante que tus niños se van para el colegio, pa’ ir a la universidad, para un degree de cualquiera pero es posible porque este mundo es de ellos. Pero no se puede que ustedes no se apoyen.
I speak both languages, however when I was a student here in Garden City, the spoken language was English. English, only English when I was a student, and at the college as well… but today I know that it is very important that your kids go to college, to a university, to get a degree, any degree and it is possible because this world belongs to them. It can’t be done if you don’t find a support.
Si necesitan ayuda nomas necesita preguntar a los maestros, los consejeros, los directores. Personas que saben. Hablan, platican. Las preguntas son necesario y son importante pero también la dedicación de los niños es más bonito de todo que se puede hacer. Es importante. ¡Si se puede!
If you need help, all you need to do is ask teachers, advisors, faculty members. People that know. Speak up, have a chat. Questions are necessary and they are important, but also dedication from these kids is the most beautiful thing that can be done. It is important. Yes you can!
Being the "First" eBook is available at New Prairie Press.
Published April 2016
Kim, Jeong-Hee; Morales, Amanda R.; Earl, Rusty; and Avalos, Sandra, "Being the “First”: A Narrative Inquiry into the Funds of Knowledge of First Generation College Students in Teacher Education" (2016). NPP eBooks. Book 7.
Being the “First”: A Narrative Inquiry into the Funds of Knowledge of First Generation College Students in Teacher Education by Kansas State University College of Education is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
This research project was undertaken as a part of the College of Education’s annual documentary film series, A Walk in My Shoes. We thank our Dean, Debbie Mercer, for her support on this project. Without her commitment to promoting diversity and social justice, this project would not have been possible. Finally, and most of all, we would like to thank the participants and their families for sharing their stories with us. They opened their hearts, their homes and their lives to us, providing powerful glimpses into the lived experiences of FGC students in the Midwest.
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