Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

Cecilia Lapolli

Cecilia Lapolli

Name: Cecilia Lapolli

Hometown: St. Helena

Role on campus: Study Abroad Advisor, Office of International Education

Years on campus: 1 year, 3 months

Education: BA, Latin American Studies. I am hoping to start a master’s degree in spring.

Why did you choose Chico? I love the community and the campus environment. Most of all, I love the nature aspect of this city, as I spend most of my time getting lost in Upper Bidwell Park. Hiking and swimming is my happy place.

What first sparked your interest in a college education? I’ve always been inspired to go to college because of the community I grew up in—it was normal to expect to continue on to get a higher education. I consider myself very fortunate to have been raised with encouragement and support from my family and friends to continue on to college, even if a large part of my family does not have a college education.

What were some barriers that prevented others in your family from completing a four-year degree? Some of the biggest obstacles include a language barrier (native Spanish speakers) and immigration to the United States later in life.

Who can you point to as a mentor or inspiration in your pursuit of a four-year degree and why? My biggest mentor was my mom. She moved to the states from El Salvador when she was only 14 years old and worked very hard to learn English fluently. She continuously reminded me that having a college education is crucial. She started school two years after I did—now she has a nursing degree and is one of the most successful bilingual nurses in the Napa Valley.

What does being first-gen mean to you? It means that despite having many barriers (financially, culturally, emotionally), anything is possible. I paid for my own education and even got to study abroad. If I can do it, anyone can. You just have to be motivated, resourceful, and determined.

What challenges do you struggle with or have you overcome as a result of being first-gen? While most of my friends in the dorms had their parents guiding them through the whole process, I really had to figure things out on my own. I didn’t know how to manage my own financial aid, I wasn’t sure how difficult classes were going to be, I had no idea how to ask for guidance or seek out resources offered at Chico State. Having gone through this, I am stronger and have so much more confidence when life throws me curveballs.

What is your wildest ambition? Complete fluency in five different languages! I currently speak three fluently: Spanish, Portuguese, English (of course), and am working on French.

What message do you want to send other first-gen students? Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are so many resources on campus I wish I had known about when I first started college; there are a plethora of professionals who are happy to help you through navigating life at Chico State. Don’t give up when things get difficult.