In honor of First-Generation Week at IUPUI, the IU School of Social Work is recognizing students who are the first in their families to attend college. Today, we are featuring Andrea Ruvalcaba, a Bachelor of Social Work student at the IUPUI campus.
Andrea was born in Chicago, Illinois. She spent her early childhood in Guadalajara, Mexico, before moving back to the United States with her family. As a low-income Latina student, she faced financial burdens and language barriers that threatened her ability to succeed in school, but her parents encouraged her to persevere.
“My parents weren’t able to continue their education after middle school because they had to work to provide for their family,” Andrea said. “Since I was a little girl, they were big on pushing education and pushing me to stay focused so that I could do better than they had growing up.”
Andrea exceeded her parents’ hopes for her future. She graduated as salutatorian of her high school, was accepted into IUPUI, and received a full-ride scholarship.
Yet, the transition to college did not come without obstacles. Andrea’s parents supported her decision to attend IUPUI, but they were unfamiliar with the college application process, and Andrea relied on high school advisors to help navigate the new territory.
After arriving at IUPUI, she began mentoring elementary and middle school students through the IU Student Success Corps, formerly known as the IU Indiana Kids Program. She worked heavily with students who spoke English as a second language, and her background enabled her to form unique connections with the students and their families.
Inspired to continue reaching across social and cultural barriers, Andrea changed her major from pre-nursing to social work. She began supporting incoming first-generation students through the Diversity Enrichment and Achievement Program at IUPUI. She became a mentor to high schoolers from her hometown who were interested in college.
“That support from one first-gen to another first-gen is really meaningful,” she said.
Andrea works in the IUPUI Honors College and is a member of the Chi Alpha Epsilon Honor Society. She is currently completing her social work practicum at a local elementary school. Her post-graduation plans include working in a community engagement position for an Indianapolis school and gaining her master’s degree in social work. In time, she hopes to return to her hometown and give back to the community that made her the person she is today.