October 20, 2016
Mission Possible: Pedro Alemán ’17
By VICKI-ANN DOWNING
PROVIDENCE COLLEGE’S MISSION at its founding in 1917 was to provide the opportunity for Catholic men — many of whom faced discrimination as the sons of European immigrants — to receive a university education. Those early PC graduates went on to become the doctors, lawyers, businessmen, and teachers who shaped Rhode Island and New England.
Today, PC continues to educate first-generation college students. About 16 percent of the nearly 3,900 undergraduates on campus come from families in which neither parent earned a bachelor’s degree. Their demographic is different than at the College’s founding — 61 percent are women, and 47 percent are students of color — but their dreams and aspirations are as bold. Six of them share their stories.
Pedro Alemán ’17
Pedro Alemán ’17 is the son of a migrant farm worker and a housekeeper, both natives of Mexico who emphasized the importance of education to their children. Alemán chose to attend a private college in New England to experience a different part of the world. But nothing prepared him for the challenges he faced his first year.
After working four jobs on campus to send money home, and doubting that he would ever fit in, he debated whether to return.
“It was really hard for me,” said Alemán. “It was a culture shock. I was Latino and low-income. There were not a lot of first-generation students or students of color. I had to mentally prepare for that. I was in a depression my first year.”
His perspective changed when he was selected to be a resident assistant (RA) on a floor in St. Joseph Hall as a sophomore — and became a mentor to first-year students.
“I loved it so much,” Alemán said. “You impact students in ways you don’t even realize.”
Alemán was an RA in Guzman Hall his junior year and is at Aquinas Hall for his senior year. He double majors in political science and sociology, with minors in black studies and Spanish. He is a class representative in Student Congress, president of the Board of Multicultural Student Affairs, and a member of the Dirigo Leadership Honor Society.
During the summer of 2015, Alemán studied abroad in Buenos Aires, Argentina, taking courses in Spanish and in Latin American history.
He loves PC — the friends he made and the professors who understood the challenges he faced.
“I grew every year that I was here,” said Alemán. “It’s made me proud of who I am. I am proud to be a Chicano. I’m privileged that I now have an education.”
After graduation, Alemán will attend the University of San Francisco to study for a master’s degree in international studies with a concentration in human rights in Latin America.
Read the full text of “Mission Possible: First-generation students are fulfilling their mission — and ours,” originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Providence College Magazine.