Mathews shares her stories as first-generation student

Shannon Mathews, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shares her story and experience as a first-generation college student at the “Our Stories” event Tuesday in the Hanawalt House Courtyard. The event, held in honor of International Women’s Day, was meant to highlight impactful voices on campus. / photo by Jingyao Liang
Shannon Mathews, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, shares her story and experience as a first-generation college student at the “Our Stories” event Tuesday in the Hanawalt House Courtyard. The event, held in honor of International Women’s Day, was meant to highlight impactful voices on campus. / photo by Jingyao Liang

Joslyn Aguilar
Staff Writer

The University’s First Generation and Peer Mentoring program hosted “Our Stories” featuring Shannon Mathews, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who shared her personal journey Tuesday in the Hanawalt House courtyard before about 20 community members.

Zion Grant-Freeman, senior year psychology major, hosted the event, which took place Tuesday afternoon in the Hanawalt House courtyard. 

Mathews shared some of the challenges she faced as a Black woman and the first  in her family to graduate from a four-year college.

Growing up in Pomona, Mathews said, she was lucky enough to have teachers who looked like her – teachers of color – something many first generation students do not experience. Education was the place she could grow and better herself.

After graduating from Ganesha High School, she went on to Pomona College in Claremont, where she really had the experience of being a minority, with hurtful remarks and microaggressions. 

“But where I grew up, we weren’t allowed to show fear or be punked,” Mathews said.

Freeman also related his story as a student and a Black man. 

Unlike Mathews, he said he did not see teachers who looked like him throughout his primary schooling.

Following the presentations were comments. 

“Many people have those instances where we feel like we weren’t ready for that, or imposter syndrome,” said Juan Regalado, chief student affairs officer.

Matthews said her faith helped her believe “that the doors that open for me are meant for me. I don’t believe in imposter syndrome,” Mathews said. “I go the flip side. If the seat was opened for me and I’m in the seat, I own it. I belong in the seat.”

Kenneth Lorenzana, junior accounting major, said he was inspired by the talk.

“I really enjoyed Zion and Dr. Mathews’ stories regarding how they pushed through many barriers in their life to get to where they are today,” Lorenzana said. 

Joslyn Aguilar can be reached at joslyn.aguilar@laverne.edu.

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