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New York City Education

First-Generation Student Perspective on Higher Education

Growing up as the child of a single, undocumented immigrant mother, my early years were marked by constant uncertainty, especially regarding housing stability. We moved frequently throughout New York City, changing residences a total of eight times. Eventually, due to the lack of permanent housing, my mother, brother, and I found ourselves living in a homeless shelter, relying on food stamps for sustenance.

Navigating the educational landscape in lower socioeconomic areas, I noticed significant disparities compared to periods spent in more economically advantaged neighborhoods. The correlation between socioeconomic status and educational opportunities became evident at a young age. New York City’s public schools, reflecting the socio-economic disparities within its communities, exhibited a profound lack of uniformity. Funding discrepancies among schools, influenced by the economic standing of their neighborhoods, led to differences in educational resources, extracurricular opportunities, and support services.

My academic journey exposed me to the contrast in educational provisions, further widening existing inequalities in my everyday life. Reflecting on these experiences, it’s evident that a comprehensive, city-wide approach is essential to address systemic inequalities embedded within the educational system. Initiatives aimed at equalizing funding distribution, enhancing resources in underserved schools, and implementing supportive programs for students facing socio-economic challenges are crucial.

By acknowledging and rectifying the root causes of these disparities, New York City can work towards creating an educational environment where every student, regardless of their background or geographical location, has equitable access to quality education and opportunities for success and higher education.

Liliana Sofia is a first-year at Princeton University and is especially interested in policy work and professional advocacy pertaining to higher education, racial disproportionalities, and socio-economic disparities.