COVID-19 Blog

FGLI COVID-19 Stories

COVID-19 has greatly impacted many people around the world, especially first-generation and/or low-income (FGLI) students. With this special edition COVID-19 blog initiative, Rise First hopes to achieve three key objectives:

  1. raise awareness of the challenges FGLI students are experiencing during this unprecedented crisis,
  2. provide a platform for FGLI students to share their stories,
  3. offer support to the best of our ability (through financial assistance and a curated COVID-19 resources list)

Rise First is honored to be able to provide a platform for student authors to opt-in to sharing their heartfelt and inspiring experiences with others so that no one will feel alone during these trying times. The inspiring stories published here are unedited to fully reflect each author’s voice. They are weaved together by common threads of determination, hope, and a sense of community - we truly are all in this together.

The students named in the blog entries below have opted-in to display their bios and have provided headshots for publishing.

Posts from students at University of Southern California


Daniel Rodriguez

Daniel Rodriguez - University Of Southern California

I feel like in life, we can choose to look at its challenges with either a positive or a negative outlook.

I have been diagnosed with coronavirus (SARS-COVID-19), and while I am okay– a lot of stress has been introduced because of it, but I want to share the moments that have helped me remember that there is good in the world.

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COVID-19 Author Image

Makela Rodgers - University Of Southern California

3 … 2 … 1 … Happy New Year! After a long year of adversities, these three words were especially meaningful when the clock struck twelve and the world entered 2020. This year not only marked a new decade, but a new chapter of my life. I had plans for 2020; plans to study abroad with all expenses paid; plans to spend the summer in the city of angels with free housing and a good paying job; and plans to successfully transition into adulthood as I signed my first lease for the fall. All of my plans reflected my determination to succeed. I had grown tremendously from the challenges I faced in 2019, and assured myself that I would be able to overcome any obstacles I may face in the following year. Yet, the world was thrown a curveball and I, along with so many others, struck out.

The global pandemic created hurdles outside of my control, and suddenly, all of the plans I had worked so hard for were at risk. My plans to study abroad interfered with international travel bans and quarantines issued worldwide. The status of my summer job was put in question, as COVID-19 continues to spread my employer will be forced to either cut hours or cut jobs. Moreover, as colleges across the nation feared the virus spreading across their campus, my university followed and I became just another casualty. After being influenced by the possibility of a prorated housing refund, I made the difficult decision to relocate from my dorm mid-semester. This rendered out-of-pocket costs, leading me to face the scariest aspect of this pandemic: financial insecurity. As my only source of financial support, I must continue to provide for myself. Without promise of a job, I have been actively searching for alternative employment, yet COVID-19 continues to decrease the number of jobs available.

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COVID-19 Author Image

Student - University Of Southern California

As a first-generation and low income student, COVID-19 has made my freshman year of college one to remember. Being from Missouri, I already don’t see my family as much anymore. My sisters, who are some of my best friends, would usually look up ton me as a leader during times of crisis. Me not being home with them is scary for both me, them, and my grandmother. So not only am I not with my family, I’m too afraid to even go home. I was diagnosed with severe anxiety so with everything going on, it’s been rough trying to manage. Thankfully I’m currently residing in the dorms at my school, but with limited food and necessities. Honestly, COVID-19 has taken so much from people and has done a lot of damage in a lot of peoples lives, including mine.

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Student - University of Southern California

As a senior finishing my last semester at USC, there were many festivities, celebrations, and memories I was looking forward to making. Before COVID-19 altered the college experience for this semester, I placed great excitement in fully enjoying festivities of this last prized semester. However, as a first-generation college student, I knew that there were still responsibilities I had to keep up. This urge to take responsibility comes from not just my personality, but also from necessity. In an ideal world, my senior year would have been me going out to eat with friends, going on spontaneous trips every weekend, etc. However, the truth, especially for a low-income first-generation college student, is this: there are responsibilities and expectations that cannot be ignored if you want to even finish college. This ideal world doesn’t exist and these ideals often become ultimatums: go out with friends tonight or have meals for the next 3 days. This is how I’ve lived most of my college experience, but it became even more emphasized in my last semester when even more fun opportunities and celebrations became an option– but at a price.

Just because COVID-19 hit the world, doesn’t mean the rent isn’t due anymore. And for a student in my situation, when work-study is cut short and there’s no longer reliable income, it makes the anxiety of living paycheck to paycheck ten times more magnified. While there are paid-leave and worker compensation programs that have adapted to the situation at hand, it didn’t provide the stability I need to make my college experience possible. When public outings were not recommended, I thought to myself “well at least I save money because fun is cancelled.” A week later when the state-mandated people to stay at home, I realized “oh my God, I can’t work anymore. How will I pay for rent?”

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COVID-19 Author Image

Student - University of Southern California

When I was admitted to USC, I was invited to the Global Leadership Program chosen for the top Marshall freshmen to go to China during spring break of freshman year. I have only left the country once when I was too young to remember so I was so excited to be given the chance to travel to China especially since I have Chinese roots from the Peruvian side of my family. I received a scholarship for this opportunity and had been saving up my money working 20 hours a week to have fun while in China. When the covid-19 outbreak started our trip to China was cancelled but we were lucky that we were able to change our plans to Cuba and Mexico and then the situation escalated and our trip was cancelled. I quickly looked for flights home to NJ so that I can spend this time with my family. After my school announced that our classes would be held online for the rest of the semester I flew home. While I was at the airport there were so many people visibly sick with flu-symptoms and there was nothing being done about it. When I got off the plane after a 6-hour flight I had a huge headache. I slept for the rest of the day and my headache continued and then I started to have a fever. I went to the hospital to be tested for covid-19 and was told results would take 3-4 days. After 5 days with no results I called the hospital asking them for my results and they told me that if they didn’t call me that means I’m okay because they are only calling if you are positive. This was extremely confusing. Once my symptoms went away I went back to LA so I could go to counseling and my doctor’s appointments since I have medicaid and only have emergency services out-of-state. 7 days after the test, I get a call from the health department informing me that I tested positive for the virus after being told I was okay. Now my whole family is sick at home and no one can go to work so we are struggling. I’ve been working at home and taking my classes online but it’s hard to do so with the constant headaches and fever. No amount of medicine helps and doctor’s aren’t really helping me or giving me any advice. I feel like people are treating me like an alien but I’m sick and I don’t want to be and I don’t want to get anyone sick but it doesn’t feel good to be in this situation. I wish I had someone to talk to about this without feeling like an infection.

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