A First-Generation Student’s Guide to Leadership

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Angel Martinez
A large stone government building with tall white columns. Numerous people are milling about on the steps.

In today's richly diverse society, modern world issues plague our communities as we fight to embrace cultural differences and beautifully diverse communities all across the world. However, in a world full of insecurities, there is no doubt that minority students oftentimes lack support and empowerment, which can impede them from pursuing their dreams, academic endeavors, and leadership opportunities. From language barriers, socio economic discrepancies, and cultural differences, these factors place many at a disadvantage in various aspects of life.

As a first generation, Mexican American student, I am here to share 3 practices you can adapt to facilitate your journey as a leader.

Practice Being Flexible

Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone! Being flexible shows your willingness to complete tasks, learn new things, and your ability to adapt to diverse environments, preparing you for any unexpected duties. Flexibility is important when exploring new roles and interests as it shows your willingness to learn, improve, and get better. Good leaders are constantly working on themselves, expanding their knowledge, and building connections with people all over the world. Additionally, educating others to understand our differences and the importance of establishing flexible environments allows us to be active participants for student orgs, school, jobs, etc., in compliance with our personal responsibilities.

Surround Yourself with Respectful Individuals

Respect is a quality that should be embraced everywhere. It is important to surround yourself with individuals who will not only respect your differences but will embrace your abilities and potential to bring something new to that environment. Additionally, it is extremely important for you to keep calm and collected in hard situations in order to contribute to a healthy and respectful environment. Regardless of someone’s positions, respect should be practiced all around, as everyone’s contributions to the group may be different, yet valuable.

Lastly, surrounding yourself with supportive and respectful people can help you become more creative and outspoken helping you grow as a valuable team member and leader in any group.

Be Open to New Opportunities

One huge roadblock that many individuals face is dismissing opportunities simply for being outside of their profession or area of study. However, sometimes, the most insightful opportunities are those who are completely unrelated to your area of study. Don't be afraid to pursue new endeavors and make yourself available to new opportunities such as internships, jobs, apprenticeships, and even friendships. There is so much to learn in this world, so take that opportunity to better yourself and strengthen your leadership abilities.

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