Social Innovation Fellows: Manuel Contreras '16

"I mobilize first-generation students to advocate for themselves and their communities."


Meet Manuel

Hometown: San Diego, CA
Concentration: Cognitive Science
LinkedIn 

Developing 1vyG has and will be one of the most culminating experiences of my life, encompassing both my time at and before Brown. I grew up as the son of two Mexican immigrants minutes from the US-Mexico border in San Diego, CA. My intuition and personal ethos - to ameliorate everything around me and to keep moving forward - is a direct result of the lessons ingrained to me by my parents’ efforts in this country. From my earliest memories, my family inculcated in me that education in this world was power, and that I could be powerful.

Through sheer luck, optimism, and hard work, I was accepted to Brown. And while I've loved my time here, the apparent lack of a first-generation community, where I could discuss my difficulty in internalizing a liberal education, grappling with my biculturalism, and feeling culturally changed, was missing. Across highly-selective institutions, I’ve met or read about students meeting the same problems at their university. At the end of the day, 1vyG is about empowering students to explore their 1G identity in order to determine what support systems they need in place, by their respective schools and each other. By pressuring some of the most powerful institutions in the world to advocate and create better experiences for first-generation students, we can help end educational disparities. My sincerest hopes are that these students can come to terms with their first-generation background, that their fellow students stand in solidarity with them, and that they graduate with the intent of making a more equitable society for all.

1vyG

United States

1vyG is an organization which seeks to strengthen and empower the first-generation network by convening communities made of both students and administrators, connecting students to pre-existing resources, recognizing gaps within these resources, and advocating for change. By challenging and inspiring each other, we aim to help students step into their power and create a more equitable educational system.

Teammates: Jessica Brown '16Stanley Stewart '16