Carrying while lifting: The First-Generation college student experience 

By Alexis Lopez, Marketing and Information Systems ‘23 

“Forget the mistake. Remember the lesson.” 

This is one of many pieces of advice Francisco Manzano-Arechiga, Comm ’19, first-generation Marquette alum, has recalled as both the first in his family to graduate from college and today as the marketing coordinator for the Milwaukee Bucks. 

The college experience can be an uncertain one for students, especially for those whose parents did not attend college and graduate. Francisco can relate, as he states, “It was a scary experience, at first. However, I eventually realized that I was at Marquette for a reason – because I belonged. I also think it opened the door for my younger sister, who is currently a freshman at Marquette, to not be afraid to attend college.”  

Francisco with his family after his undergraduate graduation.

Family is a key part of Francisco’s journey of success. As he talks about paving the way for his sister, he also credits his parents as the key reason for his success and everything they have given him to make these opportunities possible. “All I want to do in my life is make my parents proud. They left everything behind and came to the United States for a new opportunity for their family. With that being said, failure is not an option. I persevered and made opportunities for myself.” Like many other first-generation college students, Francisco carried his weight while lifting up many of those around him. 

Francisco works as the Marketing Coordinator for the Milwaukee Bucks

First-generation students commonly experience heavy weights and challenges placed on their shoulders. Francisco explains, “Being the only person of color in the majority of my classes, I don’t think many people realize how terrifying that is. You look around and realize that you are the one that looks different.” That experience can be very daunting to feel so outcasted amongst your fellow classmates. However, Francisco would not have changed that experience since it prepared him for the real world. Despite the challenges presented to Francisco, he was able to find a home within Marquette’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). “In addition to helping out financially, all the students in my class looked, talked, or came from the same background as me. That’s exactly what I needed in a place like Marquette University.” Having the support system from other students who are the same as you can make that much of a difference for first-generation college students.  

Francisco hard at work.

All students can ask for are for dreams to become a reality. Francisco was able to do that by achieving his dreams and being the first in his family to graduate from college. It was not an easy battle, but he knew as a first-generation student he needed to get out of his comfort zone and chase opportunities rather them let them come to him.  

Another lesson he learned was the importance of hard work and networking. Francisco took advantage of the opportunities given to him which allowed him to achieve extraordinary things. “I’m not usually one to flaunt about professional successes, but I was able to click “Tweet” on all of our gameday content for the 2020-21 season, including the tweet that read “The Milwaukee Bucks are CHAMPIONS OF THE WORLD!! It felt surreal, but an experience I would never take for granted or forget.” 

Francisco photographs Giannis Antetokounmpo.

The success and hard work that Francisco has achieved can be the inspiration for first-generation college students in similar circumstances. If a student is uncertain of having made a mistake, Francisco’s journey can inspire Marquette students today to achieve their long-term dreams.  

“Forget the mistake. Remember the lesson.” 

Read more about Francisco’s journey here. (Spanish version 

Alexis Lopez (Marketing and Information Systems ’23) is a native of California who is a first-generation college student.  She is involved with Pi Beta Phi sorority, Sales Club, CHAARG Club, and a RISE Mentor. She is also a marketing intern with Marquette Athletics and office assistant for the Physician’s Assistant Studies Program. Alexis attributes her success as a first-generation college student to her family, the friends she met at the RISE multicultural pre-orientation, professors and staff. After college, Alexis hopes to work in digital marketing in the sports or health care industry.  

Marquette is celebrating National First gen Day from Nov. 3-8. Get more details about the opportunities and programs here. 

 Learn more about the Educational Opportunity Program.