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‘Because we’re the first generation’: Myritney Saint-Cloud faces the challenges and motivators of being an FGLI student

Zeisha Bennett / Thresher

By Murtaza Kazmi     2/28/23 11:43pm

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Myritney Saint-Cloud is acutely aware of the generational pressure that accompanies her time at Rice. While both her parents hold degrees, they did not go to school in the United States – thus putting the onus on Saint-Cloud to pursue her education in the face of being a first-generation American and low-income student. 

“I went to a private school in Atlanta, Georgia, and it was a predominantly white school,” Saint-Cloud, a Wiess College senior, said. “I didn’t see [many] people who looked like me, and even if I did, they came from a very different socioeconomic status.”

Despite financial difficulties, Saint-Cloud said that her mother has always remained her strongest motivator.

“My mom … did her best to always make sure that I was never without,” Saint-Cloud said. “She and the rest of my family put in a lot of work to support me throughout that time”.

Saint-Cloud said she had a difficult adjustment period after matriculating, where she learned how to balance finances with the dynamic social experiences of college life.

“I’m a very social person and that comes with a lot of events that I want to go to and be a part of all the time,” Saint-Cloud said. “But at the same time, that adds up very quickly. And then you take a look at your [bank account] balance, and you’re like, ‘Well what happened?’”

Nevertheless, Saint-Cloud cites financial support as another added benefit of the residential colleges, saying that Wiess provided additional funding for her to pursue her interests.

“One of my friends was like, ‘Why don’t you go to [Cabinet] and ask for communal baking supplies?’ Throughout the years, I was able to host different types of events [with] Wiess’s money,” Saint-Cloud said.

Saint-Cloud served as the Chief Justice for Wiess this past year while also participating as an O-Week Advisor and Peer Academic Advisor. Although these positions are fulfilling, she finds that the lack of financial compensation does not match the level of dedication that she gives to these roles.

“I put [in] a lot of time and effort and I pour myself into all of these roles, and yet they’re all unpaid,” Saint-Cloud said. “Rice is not Rice without these roles and yet they’re all unpaid.”

Saint-Cloud said that the lack of pay for these roles is exacerbated by the difficulties of juggling time commitments, especially when it comes to financial aid or scholarship programs. Saint-Cloud said that she’s often found herself overwhelmed by the time commitment of applying to these programs. 

“What is not talked about is that in order to apply to each of these [scholarship] programs is that it takes so much time … that it feels like I can’t do it,” Saint-Cloud said. “I’m already devoting all my time to being CJ or to being [Beer Bike] coordinator or something like that. I never had the time to sit down and pour myself into these applications, because I’m already pouring myself into so many other things.”

Saint-Cloud says academic stress is coupled with the generational pressure to provide support for her family.

“I have to be that person to put in the work to elevate us, because it just feels like it’s the only option,” Saint-Cloud said. “Either me or my brother or my cousins, we have to be the ones to put in so much work and so much devotion to our education to uplift the family … because we’re the first generation.”

However, Saint-Cloud has found that, in her various leadership roles like Chief Justice, being vocal about her background has been helpful in connecting with other students. 

“I think that [being vocal is] the number one thing that has helped me is to be unapologetic and to face things head on,” Saint-Cloud said. “For everyone that’s coming in [to Rice] … it’s okay. This is a safe space [where] you can grieve your grievances, but also we’re going to push past together.”

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