First Generation Alumni Stories

The following alums were the first generation in their families to attend college. Read on to learn more about their stories.

Melanie Adams photo

Melanie Adams '13

Materials Science and Engineering
Trajectory: Brooklyn, New York→MIT→New York
Now: Materials science graduate student

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY in a community very representative of the West Indian upbringing my parents received.

Read Melanie's story.


George Apostol photo

George Apostol '87

Electrical Engineering
Path: Yuma, AZ→ California→ MIT→California
Now: Vice President, Strategy and Innovation Center, Samsung Semiconductor

I was born amongst the cacti and Gila monsters in the small town of Yuma, Arizona. My father, a high school graduate, is a first generation American whose father came from the Philippines, and my mother, who never completed grade school, came to the United States from Mexico. Each of my parents comes from a family of 10 siblings. I am the first person on both sides of my family to receive a college degree.

Read George's story.


Alban Cobi photo

Alban Cobi '12

Mechanical Engineering
Trajectory: Albania→ Greece→ Massachusetts→ MIT
Now: Instructor at MIT Edgerton Center

I was born in Albania in a small village of about 50 just as the Cold War ended. I knew nothing about the war or politics though because I was really young at the time.

Read Alban's story.


Photo of Diego Giraldez '15

Diego Giraldez '15

Chemical Engineering
Trajectory: Lima→New Jersey→MIT
At MIT: Sport Tae Kwon Do Team
Future: Energy Research

I was born in Lima, Peru, where I was raised in a modest home until I was about ten years old.

Read Diego's story


photo of Mina Healey '15

Mina Healey '15

Material Science and Engineering
Trajectory: Lynn, MAMIT
At MIT: Society of Undergraduate Materials Scientists
Future: Materials science research

My name is Mina and I grew up in Lynn, MA, an extremely diverse city in northeast Massachusetts. My parents both worked in the restaurant business their whole lives, so they were more than proud of me when I applied to and got accepted into MIT.

Read Mina's story


Shamarah Hernandez photo

Shamarah Hernandez '12

Economics
Trajectory: Central Florida→ MIT→ Washington, D.C.
Now: Consultant at Booz Allen Hamilton

I'm from central Florida, about an hour from Disney World. I was raised with an understanding that education was going to be a big part of my future. Mom and Dad grew up in Jamaica and Trinidad, respectively, and neither of them, nor their parents, nor their parents' parents, etc. went to college for a Bachelor'. At some point before I was born, they decided I would be the first.

Read Shamarah's story.


Luis Juarez photo

Luis Juarez '13

Biological Engineering
Trajectory:
Guanajuanto, Mexico→Houston, TX→MIT
Now: Biomedical research

I was raised in the small village of Valtierrilla, Guanajuato, Mexico for about ten years. My family then moved permanently to Houston, TX in 2001 because my parents wanted my brother and me to have a future by excelling in academics. 

Read Luis' story.


Andy Liang photo

Andy Liang '14

Chemistry and Brain & Cognitive Sciences
Trajectory: Guangzhou, China→Queens, New York→MIT→San Jose
At MIT: The Tech
Current: works at Oracle

I immigrated from Guangzhou, China at a very young age. My parents were raised with a middle-school education, and worked together selling weights used for scales.

Read Andy's story.


Photo of Walter Menendez

Walter Menendez '15

Computer Science and Engineering
Path: Los AngelesMarylandMIT
At MIT: Editor-in-Chief Technique
Future: Software development

It' funny that people think I'm from California because they're technically right—I was born in Los Angeles, CA but only spent two months there after birth. For the rest of my pre-MIT life, I was raised in suburban Maryland, in the city of Gaithersburg.

Read Walter's story


Peter  Nguyen photo

Peter Nguyen '14

Trajectory: Fountain Valley, CA→MIT
A
t MIT: Molecular Biology and Computer Science, gynastics team

I was born and raised in Southern California. Both my parents came over from Vietnam in 1992 and knew very limited English.

Read Peter's story.


Francisco Pena photo

Francisco Xavier Pena '15

Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Trajectory: Mexico→Texas→MIT
At MIT: Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Casino Rueda Club
Future: Theoretical physics research

Born and raised only a ten-minute drive from the Mexican border, I came from a family of modest expectations.

Read Francisco's story