First-Gen Proud! Family Dreams Come True

August 23rd, 2021|

First-Gen Proud! Family Dreams Come True
By: Avery Schwartz, LUCA Intern

Two students. Two stories. One dream. A dream that unites first-generation students across the country: to be the first in their families to go to college. Kevin Chuchuca and Kate Hidalgo did just that with the support and encouragement of family, their high schools, and a Westchester County college attainment organization, Latino U College Access (LUCA).

Kevin – jewelry collector, music lover, altar server, and admirer of both technology and the traditional arts – is on his way to Tufts University. Then, there’s Kate. Soccer and softball captain, drama club member, school president, and social justice champion – she will be attending the University of Rochester. 

Kevin’s parents immigrated from Ecuador and Kate’s from the Dominican Republic. They cherish family, their culture, and the strong values instilled in them while seeking the American Dream and opportunity. Their goal – making their families proud and honoring their sacrifices. 

While fortunate to have such loving and supporting families, the road to college was not easy. Kevin and Kate undoubtedly had the intelligence, passion, and potential of a great college applicant but feared lacking the necessary resources and finances to attend college. LUCA was with them every step of the way, helping fill these gaps and making sure that Kate’s and Kevin’s potential was recognized. 

Latino U College Access is a nonprofit organization in White Plains, New York. Supported by dedicated volunteers, LUCA empowers first-generation Latino students on their journeys to and through college. “We believe equitable access to education opens doors to opportunity and that students like Kevin and Kate deserve a chance to fulfill their remarkable potential,” states Executive Director, Cosette Gutierrez.  LUCA Scholars work closely with their volunteer College Coaches and essay writing committee to see their dreams unfold in front of them. Combined, Kevin and Kate received 30 acceptances to some of the best universities across the country.

Kate was also awarded The Alan and Jane Handler Scholarship from the University of Rochester, which will provide not only financial aid but additional resources and support throughout her four years of college. "LUCA introduced me to Rochester and encouraged me to apply for The Handler Scholarship. They believed in me. LUCA is really a family, and I would not be in the position I am today without them,” she said.

Both Kevin and Kate are the first in their families to attend college, bringing a whole new meaning to this accomplishment. 

“Being the first to go to college was really important to me because I want them to follow in my footsteps, and it makes it easier if I do it first,” Kate said about her two younger brothers. “Not only that,” Kevin adds, “LUCA told me I'm their first Scholar to attend Tufts University, so that's also a huge accomplishment.”

Kevin, a graduate of Ossining High School, spent summers working alongside his dad in construction and hopes to turn this passion into something much bigger as a civil engineer. He will go from “helping to build houses to building bridges and skyscrapers.” 

Meanwhile, Kate will continue to pursue leadership roles as she hopes to step into social justice work by studying political science or international relations. “I am passionate about policy change,” Kate shares, largely inspired by her Dominican background, which “opened [her] eyes to injustices and stereotypes.” 

Growing up with two younger brothers, Kate took on many responsibilities in her family. “I think from a young age that led me to embrace responsibility, which led me to all of the things I do now.” For some time during her high school years, Kate and her family battled homelessness. “When I didn't have a house and was living with my friend, school became so much more to me,” Kate said. “I felt like school was home, and I wanted other students to feel that way.” Kate created a student lounge at her school, Alexander Hamilton High School, a place where students could relax, study, or play pool!

As this next chapter in Kevin and Kate’s life begins, they are left feeling emotional: excited for new journeys, sad to leave their families, but most of all, reflective on the past four years and what the college process will look like for students like themselves.

“Be more involved in things. Open yourself up to every opportunity,” Kevin advises future first-generation Latino students. “Trying new things isn’t always dangerous.”

Overall, Kate feels optimistic. “I hope students like me continue to hold onto their dreams and do not give up, because there aren’t that many of us out there going to college, so I hope that they look at me and they’re like ‘you know what, I can, too”— or as the LUCA familia likes to say, iSí, se puede!

After four years of determination and hard work, Kevin and Kate are finally off to pursue the futures they always imagined. Their loving parents and siblings, along with the LUCA team, remain in their corner – cheering them on as they become the first in their families to attend college.