“I do not take LMU for granted because it is my safe place,” said Mariajose Gomez ’18. “Being here as a first-generation college student, I have learned that being first-gen is something to be proud of.”
As a first-generation college student who used to be homeless, Gomez insists that her life’s greatest struggles are also her greatest sources of strength. A sophomore Liberal Studies (elementary education) major and Spanish minor, Gomez is using her time at Loyola Marymount University to build her skills as a future teacher and community leader.
“As an incoming freshman, my goal was to challenge the stereotype that first-generation college students who go to college are not academically qualified to meet the demands of higher education,” Gomez said.
Gomez has already developed her own academic accomplishments at LMU as a participant in the 2016 Undergraduate Research Symposium. Gomez’s presentation, “Augustine on Teachers and Teaching: Reflections for the Intercultural Classroom,” explored ways that Saint Augustine of Hippo could inform modern approaches to teaching.
“This research project helped me deepen my understanding of the complexities involved in developing a pedagogy that effectively teaches the whole person in a multicultural classroom and promotes constructive coexistence among students belonging to different cultures,” Gomez said. “The process leading up to the oral presentation was challenging, but extremely beneficial because it gave me research experience and it provided me an opportunity to work with a faculty mentor [Matthew Pereira in Theological Studies].”
Gomez hopes to use this research experience, as well as her Liberal Studies degree, to make a difference in multicultural classrooms.
“I want to play an important role in the intellectual and social development of young minds that are full of curiosity and have the imagination to succeed,” Gomez said. “My favorite part about being a Liberal Studies major is that it has helped me flourish and allowed me to pursue my future aspirations by using my unique strengths as a first generation college student and formerly homeless student to be a positive role model for children.” She plans to pursue a bilingual credential and teach in Spanish-English classrooms.
Gomez is also developing her own leadership style in service at LMU, as a member of the Creare service organization and an Alternative Break Immersion Leader on a trip to Cuba, where she led participant meetings, reflections, and post-trip action.
“This experience [in Cuba] allowed me to interact and connect with people I never thought I would’ve been able to meet due to the relations between the U.S. and Cuba,” Gomez said. “I believe we have a lot to learn from Cuba.”
This summer, Gomez is participating in LMU’s Summer Undergraduate Research Program. In the future, she hopes to pursue a master’s degree, become a teacher, and eventually work in education policy.