These North Shore students are the first in their families to attend college

North Shore Community College students, from left, Angela Alvarez, Erick Portillo and Kim Tran, all of Lynn, celelbrate being on the path to be the first generation in their families to graduate college. (Spenser R. Hasak)

LYNN —  Kim Tran didn’t know what to expect when she emigrated from Vietnam with her family five years ago.

“I couldn’t speak English, no one in my family could, I just knew I had to learn the language quickly and start school,” she said.

And she did. The 24-year-old future physician’s assistant graduated from Lynn English High School and recently earned an Associate of Arts degree in biotechnology at North Shore Community College. Now, she’s looking for work.

Tran is one of 3,590 North Shore students who are among the first of their generation to attend college. On Wednesday, the school participated in First Generation to College day.  The anniversary of the Higher Education Act has been reserved to celebrate the experiences of first-generation college students, faculty, and staff.

Revere native Amanda Passaggio, 18, wasn’t even sure she would attend college since no one in her family had ever graduated from a four-year school. The Revere High School honors graduate needed a hand up.

“There was no real push from home to attend college,” she said. “But when I was a senior, my mother made it clear she didn’t want me or my sister to enter the family dry cleaning business because she wanted a better life for us.”

Today, Passaggio is a freshman in the school’s Liberal Arts program and her future looks bright.

Erick Portillo, 21, moved to Lynn from New Jersey a decade ago. He graduated Lynn Classical High School and is now a sophomore the college.

“My parents are very proud of me for being the first in the family to attend college,” he said. “Hopefully my younger sister will follow my lead.”

Angela Alvarez, 20, arrived in the U.S. from Guatemala four years ago. She took a crash course in English, and graduated Lynn English High School and is now studying to become a nurse.

Diane Dickerson, who directs the school’s program to assist first-generation college students, said these classmates are pioneers.

“They are making their family proud and leading the way for others who will follow,” she said.

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