Graduating First-Generation in a Global Pandemic: A Feature on Adrista Ramirez ’21

Gineen K. Abuali ’21 wrote the following profile about her fellow classmate Adrista Ramirez ’21. The feature was recently published by the Center for First-Generation Student Success

Many students would admit that they are nervous and afraid about leaving college for the “real world.” This feeling is multiplied when they are the first in their family to do so.

What if they are not only the first, but they are also graduating at the time of a global pandemic?

This hypothetical is the reality for many students in the graduating class of 2021. Adrista Ramirez is one of those students.

Ramirez is an accounting student at Saint Peter’s University who will be graduating this May. She plans to continue at Saint Peter’s in order to pursue a Master of Science in Business Analytics and eventually sit for her Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exams.

She is the manifestation of her family’s pride and joy. Not only is Ramirez the first to graduate college in her family, but she is also an active student leader. She is the friendly face on campus constantly inspiring other students.

How does Ramirez do it all?

She credits support from university staff and professors that have given her the structure she needs to succeed. From programs, workshops, the help of fellow students, staff and administrators, Adrista is passing her senior year with flying colors. She wants other students to know that “if you need help, you simply need to reach out to the specific department, and they’ll help you with no problem.” While the university has been helpful, the rest has been up to her.

“Being a first-generation student gave me the grit and determination to keep pushing until I reach the finish line. I have never felt more accomplished in my life,” Ramirez explained.

She emphasizes qualities of persistence and resilience that have gotten her through college, as well as being able to see other first-generation students make it first-hand.

Despite a successful college career that has helped her land a prestigious internship with the likes of Ernst & Young, Ramirez is still a young woman embarking on a new journey and starting a career for the first time.

Like many others, she is nervous and afraid. She recognizes that the coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty, stress and mental health concerns. Despite this, she retains the confidence that she has built up after four years of college.

Ramirez is still an ambitious woman who is determined to succeed and she will do everything in her power to make it happen.

She explains that this did not happen overnight.

“There were nights filled with tears, anxiousness and stress. What college taught me was to persevere. I leaned on my friends and family when I needed emotional support,” she said. “To be graduating during a global pandemic makes me feel a bit nervous. I question what the work field is going to look like. How is it going to change? What does that mean for me? While I am nervous, I am confident that everything will work out.”

Now more than ever, that support system is essential. She wants younger students to know that they should never take for granted the value of a constant support system.

She also wants them to know that it is okay to struggle because that is natural, but the key is to always be willing to speak up and ask for help. After all, that is what has helped her succeed.

Along with that advice, Ramirez has some parting words for those students: “Keep the faith and continue to challenge yourself. Keep your head high, and continue to chase your dreams. Don’t let this discourage you. In fact, let it motivate you. You will get to tell your future employers and family how you navigated and managed to work through a global pandemic. That speaks great volumes about your character.”