This past year was one of the most unpredictable and uncomfortable time periods in my life. I was well into my last year of college when our everyday lives and routines were drastically shifted due to the pandemic. Despite having to rapidly adapt to the changes occurring, I was able to complete my last semester of undergrad at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I received my Bachelor's Degree in Sociology.
My name is Tyshenna Phillips and I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. I have a total of ten siblings; I am the oldest of four on my mother’s side and the third oldest out of eight on my father’s side. As a first-generation college student, I often underestimated how resourceful I could be to future college students because of the adversities I have encountered at college. I struggled to muster up the courage to go to my professor’s office hours because of concerns about my identity and how to effectively communicate with them. I wasn’t used to viewing my professors as my equal or being persistent about getting extra help if needed.
Anthony Abraham Jack, author of "The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students" provides insight on the experiences of students from lower-income versus higher-incomes at college. What he found was that students from higher socioeconomic statuses often navigate the university with ease as they have been prepared throughout all stages of their academic career to succeed at college because of the social and economic capital they have access to. Students from lower socioeconomic statuses often struggle in college because they may not have access to these same resources.
Through my personal experience in college and the information I learned from my degree program, I was able to help one of my younger siblings navigate the college application process. I am proud to say that my little brother, Khalil Oden, will be attending North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the fall. To be able to help break generational patterns is amazing but I could not have done it without the help of my community and my Alma Mater. I am forever grateful and hope to continue to establish different pathways in my family with the information that I have learned.