College Survival Tips From the Young Men of Color Forum

Earlier this month, Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera was invited to the California Community Foundation’s “Young Men of Color” Forum, where we heard from experts in the college access field on how we can better support this community of college students. There were so many great personal stories and tips on how first-generation students can strengthen their success in college.

With many of our Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera students currently in college or about to begin their first year, we thought we would share some of the tips and thoughts on how to be emotionally and academically supported through college. These tips were shared by guest speakers Torie Weiston-Serdon, who often speaks about critical mentoring; as well as Kevin Barrera, student at Pasadena City College and Community College Ambassador at KidCity; and Jamal Lopez, graduate of Pepperdine University and Data and Evaluation Associate at Fulfillment Fund.

Here’s what they had to say:

  • Join a community: It may be an obvious first move, but reach out to student services and groups that were created for someone like you (for example, Hispanic Society of Engineers, Latino Club, etc.).
  • Find a guidance counselor who sees YOU for you and your personal background, and not just as another student. A pivotal point in Kevin Barrera’s college years was when he was assigned a new college counselor who would start their conversation with “How are YOU feeling today?” Together they created strategies on how Barrera could hurdle any personal struggles so that he could focus on achieving academic success.
  • Don’t let social media fool you. As you scroll through social media feeds and see fellow high school grads having a blast on their college campus and you’re not, do not be alarmed. Barrera also confessed to social media triggering thoughts that he was the only one not adjusting to college life. The reality is that a photo can fool you and his fellow high school friends who were struggling just as he was miles away.
  • Be in touch with your mental health. Both Barrera and Lopez admit to feeling depressed during their college years. The American Psychological Association found that one-third of college students experience depression. Students go through many emotional changes and challenges, so it’s important to talk to a trusted advisor, counselor or mentor to help you through these emotions.
  • Parents just don’t understand. It’s true that many of our parents are new to the college-going experience and also need supportive services to help them understand the process. Talk to an administrator or support group on campus who could refer you to a resource specifically for parents.
  • Find a mentor! Build a relationship with someone who wants to go through this college journey with you and be a friend for life. A great mentor is someone who can relate to your personal background and is there to support and not judge you. Finding a great mentor takes time, so if one connection doesn’t work, try again.


Finally, pinch yourself because you’re in college! What an amazing accomplishment that is in itself. Surround yourself with the right people and community to continue your path to success. And remember your roots…Generation 1st Degree-Pico Rivera is here for you should you ever need help identifying resources on campus, or finding a fellow Don in or around your campus.