On the first day of sixth grade, my father warned me not to get too attached or comfortable, as we would probably not be living in this school district by the end of the year. After an expensive, drawn-out divorce involving encounters with the police and my father losing his job, we expected our home to be foreclosed on any day.
As my teacher listed the books we would read throughout the year, I grew increasingly excited. Once he reached the books we would read in December, however, my excitement turned to disappointment. I saw myself as a ghost in a classroom that would go on without me.
Still, I wrote down the names of all the books I knew I would miss if we had to move, finding comfort in the idea of reading them at a new school.
I began each school year with the same mix of excitement and disappointment. Nonetheless, I tried out for sports teams and made friends.
To this day, my father and I still live in the same home, awaiting foreclosure. The feeling of dread eroded with time and was replaced with surprise and happiness when I graduated from high school surrounded by those same sixth-grade classmates.
As a first-generation college student, a low-income student, a survivor of abuse and a member of the Georgetown Scholarship Program, I understand that my family’s housing situation is only one piece of baggage packed within the many facets of my identity.
Although I describe these parts of my identity all the time, sometimes I forget what they really mean. My involvement in GSP has allowed me to remind myself of the true meaning behind these identities and celebrate these parts of myself with my peers.
The program has 650 students, 75 percent of whom are from low-income families — defined by the U.S. Department of Education as a family that earns less than 1.5 times the federal poverty line — and 70 percent of whom are first-generation college students.
Each student has a unique story. Yet, there are common themes of resilience, independence and ambition.
Through these stories, I have been able to understand who I am in the context of where I come from, rather than despite it. We can all better understand our own identities by listening to and understanding the stories of others.
I used to feel ashamed of the little girl who naively started each school year expecting every day to be her last before foreclosure. However, my fellow GSP students have allowed me to appreciate that little girl’s drive to make the most of each day before she would be forced out.
I now carry the energy and determination of that little girl with me each day as I strive to make the most of every opportunity at Georgetown, as the first in my family to attend college.
These obstacles and strengths are not unique to GSP students; all students could benefit from the support that GSP provides to our campus community.
If you are a first-generation college student or from a low-income background and recognize yourself in these stories, I encourage you to apply to become an honorary member of GSP.
Honorary members enjoy GSP resources including advising and access to small grants. More importantly, they become involved with a supportive community that allows them to understand the stories of fellow GSPers and to be proud of the experiences that have shaped their own.
Even if you do not come from this type of background, I still hope these stories of perseverance and determination provide both a source of inspiration for your own challenges and an opportunity to reflect on the facets of your own identity.
Throughout the coming week, GSP students will be sharing their stories for our annual #ProudToBeGSP campaign. The campaign is an opportunity for the entire Georgetown community to recognize the complex identities of GSP students and appreciate how much GSP students share these unique identities with others on campus.
On Wednesday, Nov. 15, we invite you to post on social media using the hashtag #ProudToBeGSP to describe how you have learned about yourself, the campus community or the greater global community through GSP students.
I recognize my inability to know another person’s lived experience. Instead, I recognize my ability to know another person through our shared emotions. Only by giving people the space to share these experiences can we recognize the similarities and the differences that show us where our knowledge ends and another’s begins.
Emily Kaye is a senior in the College. She serves as student board president for the Georgetown Scholarship Program.