Tag: Ronunique Clark (page 1 of 2)

My Summer Internship Story

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

“Work all winter so you can have fun all summer” or whatever the kids are saying nowadays… was not my experience this summer! Since my sophomore year of high-school, I’ve challenged myself to obtain an internship during my summer breaks. Internships grant students the opportunity to showcase their soft skills, but also gives the chance to learn new skills. It provides the opportunity to gain real life work experience that is transferable to your future career goals and even in the classroom.

For the Master of Public Policy program here at Heller, it is highly recommended to do an internship over the summer for the reasons stated above and many others. This summer, I had the opportunity to intern with the Department of Revenue – Child Support Enforcement  Division at the Metro office in Downtown Boston Government Center area. The Department of Revenue (DOR)  in Massachusetts manages the states taxes and child support. In addition to this, DOR  helps cities and towns manage their finances and administer the Underground Storage Tank program. The main focus of this agency is rulings and regulations, tax policy analysis, communications and legislative affairs.

The Child Support Enforcement (CSE)  Division provides tools and services to parents who pay child support and parents and caretakers who receive child support. Child support is a way for parents to share financial responsibility for their child even though they do not live together.  Even though I have previous experience in social/human services, the child support office was just a place I knew no parent wanted to be summoned too. The stereotyping around child support is that the state just wants to take your money and give it to a person that you no longer want to have any connections with whatsoever. Yet the person you no longer want to have relations with is now either the mother or father of your child or children, sealing that connection for life. So who is really at fault? Certainly not the child, so the DOR steps in. In the past year the division has allocated $2 million in compensation for children in Massachusetts.

My work was very clear, transparent, and extremely eye-opening. I worked from home Mondays and Fridays and hopped the orange line train Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  As I have stated in previous blogs, I have learned to attend new experiences with minimal  preconceived notions and expectations, especially with the work I would be doing and the customers I would interact with. I was tasked with a two part summer project which required me to take a deep dive into our GMT testing process. GMT Testing in “normal people terms” is paternity testing in order to establish paternity between the child and alleged father.  All parties, alleged father, mother, and child have to participate in paternity testing.  The first part of the project, I spent time conducting data analysis using Excel about variations in our appointment attendance and testing result rates. I was able to provide Regional Directors with data that would help them meet their testing goals for the fiscal year. This part was daunting, to say the least, because I had minimal Excel experience beforehand but my supervisor never held that against me and trained me efficiently on how to navigate it. I wouldn’t say I am an Excel guru now but I certainly obtained good Excel skills.

For the second part of my project, I conducted a phone survey with mothers who were on TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) or formerly receiving TANF about their experiences with the GMT test process. I chose TANF mothers as my sample population because majority of child support case referrals are directly from our DTA offices. I called 90 mothers in hopes they would participate in my survey, and I received a response from 37 mothers, which, for me, was huge because I had never conducted a phone survey, and because I did not know if these women would even want to participate. I was able to gather information regarding trouble with scheduling of appointments, problems accessing the testing location, and concerns with our policies. Being able to hear these mothers stories and concerns made me feel extremely anxious, because I am a public policy student who is currently trying to break into this system. However, the system was already established in a way where all I could say to mothers who expressed concerns I was not trained for was, “I will take down your information and pass it along.” I sympathized with these mothers as a child whose mother applied to receive child support, yet rarely was given anything. I was able to present these findings in a final presentation followed by my personal recommendations to CSE regional directors who were very pleased with the results. However, I can not tell you if they will follow through with the feedback and recommendations. Maybe it will be a blog for another time? I hope!

To close out, I can say I was very proud of the work I was able to produce, the skills I was able to learn, and the people I connected with over the course of my summer.  I enjoyed my work so much that I switched my concentration from Economic and Racial Equity to Child, Youth, and Family Policy (CYF). I felt that the CYF concentration would be able to provide me with the tools to that would foster a healthy development of children, youth, and families a concentration that I honestly should of started with from the begin of my graduate school journey. Better late then never, right? Excited to see what this concentration entails as I approach my final year of grad school. Thank you, DOR, for an amazing summer and thank you, Heller, for providing me with the tools to succeed in that space!

 

5 Item Bucket List for Summer 2022

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?  My favorite season is finally approaching and yes, you guessed it, it’s summertime.  I love summer for many reasons: it’s a time for warm weather and clear skies, relaxation, and spending time with family and friends. What is most exciting about this summer is that after 5 years of attending school in Boston, this will be my first time staying over  the summer. I always hear how fun it is to be in Boston over the summer and I am hoping to reap all the lovely benefits. This summer I am challenging myself to complete a mini 5 item bucket list before school starts back in the Fall.

1.  Take a Trip To Salem

I know what you are thinking— there is no way I been in Massachusetts this long and have not visited Salem. I am busy girl with a lot of academic priorities, cut me some slack! Salem is famous for its Witch Trial of 1692 and its author Nathaniel  Hawthorne. The place is filled with architecture, world class museums, shopping, and restaurants you can easily spend the entire day exploring Salem. If you have any favorite museums and restaurants in Salem please feel free to share them in the comment section below.

2. Read 2-3 Books from my favorite genres

I love reading books for leisure, but I found it difficult to read for my own pleasure while also juggling academics.  One of my best friends from undergrad inspired this task on my bucket list as she has already read about 15 books since the start of this year alone.  I am so excited to walk into a library or bookstore to pick out books from some of favorite genres such as Young Adult Fiction or Thrillers. I would also like to read one book that promotes mental health and self care so that I can learn some tips and tricks to prepare for Fall semester.

3. Teach Myself How to Knit

This item is something that has been on my mind for a little over a year now. When I was younger I would enjoy making friendship bracelets with the really thin string, making my friends and family endless bracelets filled with different designs and colors. I thought to myself, if I can sit for hours flipping, tucking, stretching this thin thread, how hard would it be to knit a thing or two? I feel that knitting will bring me joy, relaxation, and it is also a hobby that I can do anytime or anywhere. If I do say so myself, this item is the one I’m excited for the most.

4. Road Trip

Who doesn’t love a good old fashioned road trip. Coming from California, I have always found it to be super interesting that I can drive one or two hours from Boston and possibly end up in an entirely different state! If you drive one to two hours in California, do you know where you would be? Yup, still in California. I am not sure yet if I want to make my way up North or South but the options are endless and hopefully I will have enough gas money to make it through!

5. Volunteer

I have found much pleasure in taking time to make sure I give back to the community. I have previous experience volunteering with the Petey Greene program assisting individuals who are incarcerated  with tutoring help completing their high school diplomas, GED, or college courses. I hope that this summer I can  either volunteer again with the program or sign up to assist at a local food bank or shelter also dragging my friends along with me to do the same!

This mini bucket list is not much but it is something to look forward to, and I hope that I am able to complete at least two (if not all of the tasks) I have listed this summer. I hope to create a bunch memories, a lot of knitted items, and to impact someone else’s life.

My Experience as a First Generation Student

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Nearly five years ago, I took a huge leap of faith and gathered all my belongings to move 3,000 miles away from everything I knew in hopes to purse higher education. Fast forward: I am now nearing the completion of my first year as a first generation Master of Public Policy student. WOO!

In retrospect, I attempted to begin my journey without any expectations because when I began undergrad I had so many expectations for what I thought my college experience would entail, but everything does not always go according to plan. I wanted to come into my graduate student journey with a clean slate and a open heart and mind. I did not want to assume that any of my classmates would be similar to me, or that my professors would either be helpful or not, or if I would even be able to utilize all the resources provided  to me.  I came into this program wanting to be a sponge, soaking up all information and knowledge in relation to my interest and my future career goals. This program however has exceed anything expectations that I could have possibly created.

One thing I’ve appreciated the most about my time here at Heller is that the classroom  is extremely collaborative, open, and vulnerable space for students to voice their interests, opinions, and concerns on important policy issues. In undergrad, I rarely felt comfortable working in groups or voicing my opinions because I felt others would not understand my views or value them. I appreciated the push from my fellow peers and my professors at Heller, who encouraged me to share my experiences and thoughts. To my surprise, in most cases, others would have similar experiences, shared interests and thoughts. My professors deemed my insight as important and provided extensive feedback on how to tailor my skills. Being a first generation graduate student, it meant the world to me to enter a space without feeling as if you do not belong there.  Reassurance is key for connecting with first generation students because we can easily feel imposter syndrome. The feeling of knowing that you earned your spot like every one else and that your insight matters is the best feeling when navigating higher education.

What I have learned on my journey thus far is that time management is everything. This is something most first generation students struggle with because we do not have the luxury of just being able to attend school; at times we have to cater to needs of family members or work jobs that will assist us in paying for our education and survival. This can be overwhelming for many individuals, but what I have learned from this is that it is okay to ask for help, it is okay to say that you do not understand, and it is okay to say that it is not feasible for you at the moment and to ask for an extension. No one in this program wants to see you fail because of things outside of your control. Being able to speak up about  your needs is important and you never know who might be able to support you or point you in the right direction.

School is far from easy and I never expected graduate school to be so. I knew I was in for a challenge, I just did not know what it was going to be exactly. I am proud of how far I have come and I am looking forward to what is to come next. To all my first generation graduate students: do not forget that you deserve to be where you are no matter where you come from.  Continue to always show up in spaces as your greater self and even though some days maybe harder then others, just remember where you started and where you will be when you are done. Take care of yourselves– we got this!

Who runs the world? GIRLS! How to Celebrate Women’s History Month

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

We are now entering March, also known as  Women’s History Month! WOO!  Women’s History Month is a time to celebrate the evolution of women all around the globe. To celebrate, I wanted to make a quick list of fun things to do with your girlfriends during Women’s History Month:

  1. Girls Karaoke Night- Who doesn’t love a night of singing and dancing with your girlfriends. Find a good karaoke spot or host karaoke night in your home listening to your favorite women artist/groups  without any picks from the boys!
  2.  Brunch- Now what is a Women’s History Month without a good brunch! Me and my friends love trying out new brunch spots around the area.  Some of my favorite brunch spots currently in the Boston Area: Koy, a modern Asian cuisine restuarant with great music near Faneuil Hall; LuLu’s in Allston, the most perfect comfort food; and my ultimate favorite Earl’s inside the Prudential Center, they never failed a girls night!
  3. Host a Spa/Sleepover- There’s nothing better then a sleepover with your favorite friends! You can plan a personal spa day at a spa of your choice before the start of the sleepover. We are girl bosses on a budget and Groupon has amazing deals that I encourage everyone to check out. Or buy spa-like products from your favorite stores such as Target, Ulta, Sephora where you can relax with face and foot mask or enjoy doing each others makeup!

These are just a few fun ways to celebrate yourself as a women and the women you love in your life as well. Once again, Happy Women’s History Month!

What Black History Month Means to Me As a First-Gen Graduate Student

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

As we near the end of Black History Month, I wanted to take the time to reflect on what the month means to me as a Black first-generation graduate student.

Higher education was not accessible to Black Americans for years. I remember learning about the history of my ancestors who fought to learn how to read, write, and to attend classes with their other peers. They were belittled, hosed down, and even killed when trying to further their knowledge. Without their sacrifices and fearless hearts, I would not be able to attend this university today.

I reflect on the way my ancestors used the power of non-violent protest and their voices in order to advocate for the space and the opportunity to advance their educational skills in the real world, and so that their children, grand-children, and great-grand-children could do the same. Education Rights Activist, Malala Yousafzai, said, “Let us remember, one book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” I imagine what a world would be like without the input, creativity, and ideas offered by Black Americans. I believe that we would struggle intensively when climbing the ladder of economic and social advancement in this nation without it. What saddens me the most is that after years of blood, sweat, and tears, Black Americans still have to fight for a seat at a table.

My hope is that through my time at Heller, I will be able to not only enhance my skills and expertise but also utilize my experiences to connect to my peers and faculty. I want to be able to embody the strength my ancestors had when advocating for issues that I believe in. Even though this month is the shortest one of the year, celebrating the accomplishments and strides of Black Americans in this nation from the past to the current this does not mean our accomplishments are short-lived or do not exceed expectations. The world moves because we move and I will continue to make sure of this whenever I enter a room no matter what month it is. Black History Month makes me feel a wave of emotions that can be excruciating at times, but it is also extremely beautiful and eventful. This month makes me feel alive and proud; I hope that I can continue to celebrate and shine a light on my community for years to come.

Happy Black History Month!

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Happy Black History Month! One of my favorite months in the year. This Black History Month I want to take the time to highlight some of my favorite influential Black people that have made amazing strides in the community and who have inspired me on a journey of higher education, advocacy, and self-awareness.

Katherine Kennedy

Katherine Kennedy, also known as KK or Ms.Kennedy, is a Boston native and for the last 18 years served as Director for the Howard Thurman Center of Common Ground at Boston University. I met Ms.Kennedy in 2017 when I was in search of a community on the Boston University campus. I remember entering the HTC one random day and I introduced myself by my nickname, and she said to me “Young lady, now what is your actual name, because I know that is not the one your mother gave you.” From that day forward, Ms.Kennedy became one of my favorite faculty members at Boston University. Before her time at BU, she started her career as a journalist for the Boston Globe where she served on the team that received the 1975 Pulitzer prize for Meritorious  Public Service for reporting on the Boston busing crisis of 1974. She was then recruited to the University of California Berkeley, where she established the minority journalism program. After her time with Cal Berkeley, she worked for the NFL and the New England Patriots where she piloted a degree program for active players. Ms. Kennedy showed me the meaning of being an active community member.

Stacey Abrams

Stacy Abrams is a Black American politician, lawyer, and author who served on the Georgia House of Representatives from 2007 to 2017. She is mostly known for her work in advocating for the best voting rights practices. She is the founder of Fair Fight Action, whose primary goal is to promote fair elections across the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights.  Abrams is one of the reasons I became interested in voting rights and how voting is not as accessible as we think it is. Abrams helped me understand the true meaning of my vote and why voting amongst the people of the global majority is important so that we are able to amplify our voices and make sure our needs are met. Thank you, Stacey Abrams, please keep fighting!

Shirley Chisholm 

Ms. Unbought and Unbossed herself! Shirley Chisholm was the first Black woman elected into Congress in 1968, where she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms. Before joining Congress, Chisholm worked for the New York’s State Assembley. Chisholm gave us the best piece of advice yet, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Chisholm was a trailblazer, she was a force to be reckoned with, and she would never back down from a fight, especially when it regarded basic human rights, healthcare, minimum wage, and education. She taught me to never give up, to always fight for what I believed in, and that my knowledge is a tool that could always be utilized for the greater good. Without Chisholm, women like Stacey Abrams, Kamala Harris, and many more would not be in the positions of power they are in today. Thank you, Shirley Chisholm for leading the pack; we are truly grateful for the doors you have opened for Black women in politics.

Dealing with COVID-19 as a Graduate Student

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

As we enter our third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it can feel never-ending and draining. If you have experienced COVID personally, in your family, or close friends group, here is a list of ways on how I have tried to stay safe versus sorry during this time.

First, if you test positive for COVID or come in close contact with someone who has, you should communicate this to others in your academic and professional settings. What we have been seeing a lot during this pandemic is people not wanting to disclose their status but in order to keep the numbers low and everyone safe, it is important to communicate. I recommend that you reach out to anyone you have been in close contact with, communicate to your professors so that they can better assist you with help on assignments or deadlines, and speak to your supervisor so that they can assist you in rescheduling hours and work-related tasks.

Second, make sure to wear your mask, wash your hands with soap and water, and disinfectant high-touch surfaced areas such as doorknobs, light switches, dishes etc. These steps will keep the spread of COVID at a minimum so that you and others are protected against the virus.  If you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive, make sure to self-isolate; it can be confusing on how long to self isolate for, especially if you received a COVID-19 vaccine but make sure to follow CDC recommendations.

Third, isolation and self-quarantine can be very difficult, having to sit in one space staring at the walls. Begin to find hobbies or things that interest you. Work out or do yoga for 15-20 minutes to keep your body up and running if you are able, start a new book, meditate or begin a self-journaling journey; anything that will keep your mind or body stimulated without causing too much stress on yourself.

This pandemic has been a hard and long one, but by following these simple steps, we can help keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.

Financing Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

The feeling you get when you receive your offer into the graduate school of your choice is undeniably one of the best feelings ever! You may have been working on your application for months, recommenders may have bailed out on you, the personal statement began to look like a blur after too many rewrites, but you finished it, submitted it, and got in. The next order of business is always “so how will I pay for this?” This can be answered in many ways, but for now, I will just offer my own two cents.

For me, I was lucky enough to leave my undergraduate institution with minimal student debt because I was granted a full scholarship. However, unlike undergrad, I knew that it would be difficult to secure sufficient funding in grad school. When I started my grad school application process, I would search the websites to determine how schools would disburse financial aid. Heller usually offers at least a 30-50% merit scholarship to most students applying to their programs, though some programs may offer more. This was a green flag for me when applying because it showed that Heller did not want students to unnecessarily worry about the financial part, but to come in and be able to learn without the additional stress.

A few things I learned when seeking funding for grad school: First, I learned when searching for funding, you need to be specific in your wording. I would recommend searching for “scholarships for public policy students” or “scholarships for graduate students”, which would narrow the information down to my particular request, avoiding the disappointment that comes with finding a great scholarship only to see in the description, “this is only for undergraduate students only”.

Second, I live by the saying “closed mouths do not get fed” and from this, I took the initiative to reach out to my mentors, former supervisors, or programs that I worked/volunteered for. This can be helpful because many jobs or programs have funding to support individuals’ academic efforts. Sometimes these can be free without any additional requirements, or you may have to fill out an application and work out a system to receive the funds. If you do not advocate for yourself and your work ethic, then who will?

Lastly,  working and going to school can be difficult. I found full-time or part-time work-study jobs to be beneficial. Note that most schools do not offer work-study for graduate students, especially international students. But even if it is not work-study, some on-campus jobs are able to hire students directly to their payroll if the department allows for it.  I advocate for on-campus or work-study employment because they work the best with students’ academic schedules, and they also are able to provide support and resources, and you may be able to score a job that fits your academic interests.

Seeking funding for graduate school can be rough, but it does not have to be. Always reach out to the school of your choice and see what resources they provide to graduate students; if you do not ask, then you will never know. This information is sometimes public but not always, so it is important to really advocate for yourself and your needs when you’re applying, during your time in the program, and even after you graduate.

Closing out the First Semester of Grad School

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Finally! I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for my first fall semester of the MPP program. As I near the end of the semester, I have had time to reflect on the challenges, accomplishments, and personal goals I want to set for myself next semester.

When entering the program, I had no idea what to expect initially. Being one of the few in my cohort who began the program straight out of undergrad, I had to work around the preconceived notions and tactics I have built being a student. How would the professors be supportive? How will my cohort be supportive? What resources are offered on campus if I am having a hard time or struggling? At my previous school, grades mattered the most— if you did not receive anything over a C+, you were frowned upon by peers and professors. My professors at Heller were very supportive, responsive, and understanding. At the beginning of the semester, they all instituted that we should not focus just on our grades, but we should focus on how we connect with the material and find ourselves when writing and discussing these issues with our peers, teaching assistants, and professors. This made me more comfortable with meeting with professors outside of the classroom because I felt confident enough to ask questions and express my concerns. Additionally, although I see myself as a social butterfly, I entered Heller in a cocoon. I did not know how to really engage with my peers or start conversations that were not always school-related, but my cohort made it very easy. They all wanted to get to know each other, not just on a surface-based level, and being able to grab a seat in Zinner Forum and have a conversation with a few of my peers has made my days lighter.

After overcoming these small challenges, I can say I am very proud of myself for how far I have come in an academic space. Even though I still have a small fear of bringing my own opinions up in class discussions, I noticed I am not afraid to share more on issues that may directly or indirectly affect me. I also find myself really taking my time with the assignments I turn in, asking follow-up questions prompts, deadlines, or anything else that comes my way. During my time in undergrad, I became very self-conscious about my writing skills, but after this semester, I am more confident in working with my peers on peer reviews, making numerous drafts to get that final one, and really putting my best foot forward when writing on issues that I am passionate about.

Graduate school is still not easy, but this first semester has been very eye-opening and has allowed me substantial room to grow. My goal for next semester is to be able to lead more discussions in my classroom and also fight the urge to procrastinate when a project or assignment presents itself. I want to be able to really connect my personal experiences and passions to the research presented to me and flesh out more ways to combat the issues in a social justice manner. I am super excited to be kicking off my second semester and can not wait to see what it entails.

Applying to Graduate School as a First Generation Graduate Student

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Ronunique Clark, MPP’23

Applying to graduate school as a first generation graduate student is not always as easy as it may seem.  When I started my senior year at Boston University, I was on the pathway to become a law student. I spent all summer and most of fall prepping for the LSAT, deciding what schools I wanted to apply to, endless amount of GroupMe messages… it was all super draining.  Yet when it came time to write my personal statement I could not find the words to say why I wanted to be an attorney. Was it because I wanted to help my community? Was it because I will be financially stable? What was it? I spent the last  two years prepping for my journey into law school and now I can’t even say why I want to be there. I think I was turned off by the law school process. I did not understand the purpose of the LSAT when all the 1L and 2L says the LSAT has barely anything to do with your classes. I did not understand why I would choose to sit in a class discussing outdated laws. I did not understand the process for the bar exam. It all just seemed like a rigged system to me and I no longer wanted any part.

Once I officially decided that law school was not for me, I was right back to the drawing board. Well, what am I supposed to do now? I was set to graduate from BU in less than 5 months and I just shut the door on what I thought was my dream career. I remember speaking with a old supervisor of mine about my concerns: I told her I knew I wanted to help people but I wanted to make a everlasting impact, I wanted to be within the community making the changes they want to see, and that I was thinking of applying for a MPP or MPA degree. She told me it sounded like a great idea and if she could had gotten her MPP or MPA instead of law school she would have 1000% done it. She said to me, “I did not want to study law I wanted to learn the legal and government system to make it better.” From that statement alone I began thinking some more about my personal goals and the field I saw myself in. Once that became clear, I began my search for masters programs.  I had few goals for this new journey: find a master’s program that did not require the GRE (hey, what can I say I was burnt out from standardized testing), only apply for 5 schools, and secure a scholarship offer.

One thing I forgot about once I narrowed down my choices and began my application process was that in undergrad I had way more assistance. I had more time to polish my personal statement, I had more time to search for schools, I had more time to submit scholarship applications, and on top of that, I was chosen as a Posse Scholar, and they pretty much do all the work for you– all I did was show up to an interview and a few meetings. I was on a time crunch submitting grad school apps, finding recommenders, and submitting scholarship essays. Not only did I have to deal with being on a time crunch, I had to deal with the most hated question of college students, “What are you doing after you graduate?” I would answer, “Grad school” only to receive responses such as, “Why would you want to go to grad school right after undergrad?”, “What do you plan to do with a second degree?”, questions I honestly did not have the answer to and probably still don’t have the answer to.  However, my mentor, my posse, my friends, and my family where all very supportive of my decision to get my masters. They always wanted me to do what made me happy and I can not thank them enough for the support. Friends offered to read my statement of purposes, people always asked for updates and when acceptances letters came in I was showered with words of wisdom and encouragement. Most of my family never went to college and sometimes its hard for them to understand the challenges I have to face, but they never doubted my ability to finish strong. One piece of advice I want to give a first generation graduate student is that breaking generational curses starts with you and even when the road looks foggy, trust the light is always at the end.

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