National organization helps first-generation Latinx business students connect and network at Bradley University
Naomi Barranco is a junior studying international business and marketing at Bradley University.
She’s from McHenry, Illinois, and she’s the first person in her family to go to college.
She is also a first generation American. her father is Mexican and her mother is Honduran. Like many first-generation college students, Naomi’s college experience came with an added layer of stress.
“I have these high expectations, especially since I feel like I have to set this image for my younger siblings, my younger cousins and stuff like that,” she said. “And since I’ve never had this type of experience before, it’s really difficult to navigate. …and it’s intimidating.
But soon after arriving in Peoria, Barranco discovered Bradley’s student chapter of the Association of Latino Professionals of America – a national professional development and networking organization.
Through regular ALPFA meetings, Barranco said she improved her leadership skills while learning to network. Introverted by nature, she is no longer afraid to speak in public.
Now Barranco is the chapter’s external vice president — and she’s leading an effort to send herself and other students to ALPFA’s annual summer convention in Orlando, Florida.
Although a Fundraising GoFundMeBradley ALPFAs aims to raise at least $1,000 – enough to cover each member’s $250 conference ticket, plus hotels and transportation.
For many, the experience could be life changing, Barranco said.
“For most first-generation college students, our dream, our expectation, is to get a job right out of college,” she said. “My goal is…to find a company that I really want to work with, and maybe get an internship. Get a job, secure that job for after college, so I can achieve that goal, and then go straight into life and achieve that goal that I’ve had since elementary school.
Jocelyn Avalos is a second-year marketing student. She is also a first-generation student and board member of Bradley’s ALPFA chapter.
For Avalos, the first two years of college were heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, she says, ALPFA has made a big difference in her life.
“A lot of us are first-generation college students, and being in business…you need connections everywhere, connections are key,” she said. “This organization helps us to get in touch with professional organizations, jobs, companies… helps us find internships. As well as professional development, like helping us with our CVs, interview techniques and anything else that might help us.
Although being a first-generation student has its challenges, Barranco said she was grateful that she was able to approach the college experience with fresh eyes.
“It really uplifts us, because we have to learn these things here on our own, as individuals, on our own,” she said.
Whether it’s hanging out in Peoria or spending time in Florida, Barranco’s experiences are always shared with his parents.
“Sometimes people maybe don’t feel Latino enough or feel American enough. And we kind of blend in the middle,” she said. “But… it really helps us enjoy each side even more. It’s really nice that I come here… I didn’t know all these customs. And I can talk to my parents about it, just as they teach me about their traditions, their practices and everything related to it.