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Jennifer: Why are you first?

Jennifer Fitz Cortez wrote an opinion piece that appeared in University of Portland’s The Beacon. Read the original article here.

OPINION: Why are you first?

November 6, 2019 12:58pm

Jennifer Fitz Cortez, FGEN student and sophomore Spanish and psychology major. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Fitz Cortez.

I am the daughter of immigrants who came to the United States in search of the American Dream. My parents highly value education, and going to college was not a choice but more of an expectation, since they did not have the same opportunity. It was a lot of pressure being the first in my family to go to college, but emotionally, I knew my parents would be very supportive and understanding. Since I was little, my mom urged me to seek help and to always ask questions, and I knew that college would be no different.

I was very lucky to find really good mentors along the way, such as my high school counselor and track coach, who I owe a lot to in helping me find resources for college. My family was my greatest motivator for where I am now, but I am thankful for the people I met along the way who contributed to my success. I also have two younger sisters who look up to me, two more who want to go to college. I have Latino neighbors that have changed their perspective on their kids going to college because they’ve seen that it is possible to get there. Resources are everywhere, one just has to be persistent about finding them. Like my high school track coach used to say, “It is 10% talent and 90% determination.” I am not here because I am the smartest or have the money. I am here because I found scholarships, family motivation and support. I am studying because I want to see more diversity in the health field and more bilingual access for patients that are non-native English speakers. So, when you ask me “Why are you first?” it is because of encouragement, support, resources and because I feel I have something to contribute that is worth having a college education.

Jennifer Fitz Cortez is a sophomore Spanish and psychology major. She can be reached at


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