State University of New York College at Geneseo

Melissa Minaya (2016)

My First Generation Story

Geneseo is six hours away from my home and my family in Manhattan. When I arrived, adapting to rural, small-town Geneseo was challenging for me. My first semester of college all I wanted to do was sleep, go to the gym and go to my on-campus job at the dining halls.

I am a first generation Hispanic woman, which I am extremely proud of, but this created numerous obstacles for me simply because I lacked some of the resources that some of my classmates were privileged to have.

I hated Geneseo and I couldn’t tell anyone at home because nobody would understand. I would constantly picture how a conversation with my mother would go:
Me: “Hey Mom, I hate it here and I want to go back home.”
Mom: “Didn’t you want to go away? Now you have to stick it out.”

Tough love is what I would expect from my mother, so I decided not to say anything. As my first semester ended and second semester quickly looped around, I knew something had to change in order for me to be successful.

I decided to apply to be a peer mentor through the Access Opportunity Program. This position opened many doors for me and allowed me to see things through different lenses. This is what ultimately led me to graduation day.

The most important lesson that I learned was to ask for help. I was never very keen to the idea of asking for help and always thought I could do everything on own. This was not easy for me; I had to put my pride aside and learn how to trust others. This led to some amazing mentors and to my most memorable experiences.

I became a resident assistant and later an assistant residence director. I was able to work closely with the department of scheduling and events where I mostly booked rooms for student organizations but gain so many transferable skills from and continue to mentor students through AOP and even spent a summer studying and living with a family in Nicaragua — truly a dream come true. I graduated in four years!

Although I was forced to be more vulnerable than I wanted to, I learned to dive into opportunities, that it is okay to fail as long as I got back up and tried it again, and that help wouldn’t come unless you ask for it. The obstacles and the many blessings is what makes Geneseo my home.

I would like to share a quote (that although simple always kept me going when I needed it the most) with the future generation of first generation students, “Never let the fear of striking out, keep you from playing the game.” Several times I caught myself losing motivation or thinking that I already accomplished enough by making it to college, but graduating from an institution brings a different kind of joy into your life. Therefore, find those resources that you need in order to succeed in the people around you. Don’t celebrate in the middle; instead celebrate when you are finished.

About the Student

Melissa Minaya Resized

I'm a first-generation college student of Hispanic heritage, from New York City. I'm proud to be at SUNY Geneseo, where I've learned to seek help: It has led me to my passions and changed my perspective.

Student Stats

Name: Melissa Minaya (2016)
Age: 21
Year in School: Senior
Major: Business Administration
Favorite Course: Marketing
Dream Job: Director of Multicultural Affairs

About the School

SUNY Geneseo

Located in the historic village of Geneseo in the upstate Finger Lakes region, the State University of New York at Geneseo is a premier public liberal arts college with a rich tradition of academic excellence. We are dedicated to developing socially responsible citizens with skills and values for a productive life.

Nestled next to the Village of Geneseo – one of 24 communities nationwide to be recognized as a National Historic Landmark – the campus’s ivy-covered brick buildings evince a traditional college ambience. The Village is an ideal home for the College, with long-standing traditions of mutual respect and shared culture.



  • Kellee Edmonds
    Vice President of Communications and Public Relations
    (202) 478-4662