Students Rising Above

by Jennifer Mistrot and Elizabeth Cook

Many young people struggle to fit in at college, but for first-generation students, basics like networking and even off-campus meals can be out of reach. It’s a situation Students Rising Above scholar Cindy Escobar is seeking to change.

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In early 2021, Escobar – a rising junior at Boston-area Babson College – along with other fellow students founded Semillas Society, an online community geared toward equity for all on college campuses. Semilla, which means seed in Spanish, was chosen as the name to honor the immigrant experience, Escobar said.

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“Sons and daughters of immigrant parents,” said Escobar. “They planted this seed which is, like, us in this land of opportunity in hopes for a better future.”

They are dreams that Escobar says can be harder to achieve, especially when a student experiences “imposter syndrome,” what some loosely define as an individual’s perception of not being as competent as others in their peer group.

“I think it’s kind of like an emotional cycle of self-doubt,” explained Escobar. “Figure in your mind, you are just going through all the possible reasons why you can’t do something or why you wouldn’t be able to do something … that is very mentally draining.”

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Escobar also feels imposter syndrome is not uncommon, particularly among first-generation college students and students of color, who may lack equal access to mentoring and other opportunities. Her online forum provides a safe space for students to gather.

“When we are talking about a college experience, we are not only talking about academics, we are talking about what we are doing outside of the classroom, too,” said Escobar. “The friends, the people that we have access to, and that we meet.”

Since launching on Instagram in early 2021, Semillas Society has already attracted around 250 followers. Many are college graduates from across the United States. Escobar says future plans include webinars and mentorship opportunities.

Her entrepreneurial spirit is homegrown. Both of her parents have their own businesses, and they have encouraged their children to work hard and dream big.

“We are very proud and grateful for how wonderful a daughter Cindy is,” said Marta Tecun. “We always push [our children] to do something. We want them to have their own business. [Cindy] grew up knowing that we have owned our business and that we started from the beginning.”

Escobar says Semilla Society is geared towards Latinx students but she encourages all first-generation students and students of color to check it out. Currently, its Instagram page features graduate profiles. Escobar is back from Babson and home in Marin County for the summer, but she will continue to work on Semillas Society remotely so she can help others grow their dreams while she stays true to her roots.

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“I know the first-gen struggles, it’s hard,” said Escobar. “But honestly our struggle is what makes us so unique and so much stronger. We always have something or someone to work hard for day in and day out.”