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First-Generation Student Angel Olivo Defines Success

Speaking For Himself: An Interview with Angel Olivo

Q:  What is success?

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Q: What does it mean to your family for you to complete your college education?

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Q: How would you describe your education?

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Photos Courtesy of Angel Olivo


A Delicate Balance
By Marco Luna
Statistics on first-generation students point toward a challenging road for students like 25-year-old criminology senior, Angel Olivo. In her article “Students whose parents did not go to college: Postsecondary access, persistence, and attainment,” Susan P. Choy writes that “such students are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to post-secondary access…a disadvantage that persists even after controlling for other important factors such as educational expectations, academic preparation, support from parents and schools in planning and preparing for college and family income.”Olivo understands these barriers;  he faced them before and lives them today.

A Difficult Decision, With Ramifications

Olivo attended South San High School for six weeks during freshman year, then dropped out because, he said, of a lack of guidance from his parents who migrated from Mexico and divorced before he was 5 years old.  He describes how his mother was unable to complete her high school education. He was unable to recall his father’s history. He decided to hang around with the wrong crowd in order to seek acceptance and guidance, thinking he would be better off.Olivo decided to study criminology because he was placed at an institution called Texas Youth Commission when he was young. He admired those in positions of power and was intrigued by the courtroom setting. His goal it ultimately attend law school.

“When I first started college, I thought criminology would be a good setting stone for me so I could get some knowledge of the practice of law or anywhere in that area.”

Engagement with Faculty

As a member of the Student Government Association, Angel has spoken at meetings and conferences about his background. Both President Dr. Ferrier and the Executive Cabinet are familiar with his struggles and are a part of his support system. Other members of the Student Government Association and members from the Department of Communications know Angel’s struggles and successes as well.

According to the article “First-Generation Status and Student Race/Ethnicity as Distinct Predictors of Student Involvement and Learning” by Carol A. Lundberg, engagement with faculty and other university personnel may be especially beneficial for first-generation students.

This is true for Olivo, who says that the support has been instrumental to his continuing school.

Balancing Work and School

When it comes to organizing his time, Olivo feels he needs to improve. He works for FedEx Corporation for 30 hours per week, though sometimes more.

Determining when to study, and sticking to that pattern, has proven difficult. Large blocks of time are rare.

“It’s like I am in one atmosphere and then I automatically go into a different one,” Olivo says. “By the time I get home, I’m exhausted and tired. I just want to go home and study. Even then I still don’t sleep. I’ll watch the news or something because my mind is not wanting to sleep yet. At that time I don’t have the urge to study because I have so much on my mind and everything I faced throughout the day and I just want to go to bed.”

“It’s difficult to work and go to school,” Olivo said. “Dropping out of high school was difficult.”


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