What Commencement Means For One First-Gen UNR Senior

May 14, 2020

Gabino Salinas is a fifth-year student at the University of Nevada, Reno. He would have taken part in commencement with other graduating seniors on May 13, 14, or 15, but the ceremonies have been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Salinas arrived at UNR as a first-generation student and started by studying medicine.

"I was introduced to STEM in middle school,” Salinas said. “I had a life-changing event at some point in high school in which a loved one passed away, and it was due to a lack of access to health care. So I had an epiphany, and I was like, 'I'm going to become a doctor,' even though I hadn't shown a whole lot of potential [in science]. But I was like, ‘It's fine. I like math.' "

He later switched his major to Biology, where he continued his education at UNR. Salinas' background as a first-generation student also meant a lot to him.

"I just feel a lot of pride in myself and a lot of my friends that also went through the same experience, just because there were a lot of hardships involved," Salinas explained. "For example, the thing that really sticks out was navigating FAFSA, [or Free Application for Federal Student Aid]. That was really difficult for a lot of us. Especially being 18 or 19 and not really having anybody to consult with through these official government documents. So it was really stressful."

Salinas is graduating in May with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish. He will have the opportunity to participate in commencement, alongside his class, in fall 2020 or spring 2021.

"I don't want to say I'm indifferent towards commencement," Salinas explained. "I just want my degrees and to move on. But I'm probably gonna come back in a year and walk because my family really wants to see it all. Since I'm a first-gen, it means a lot to them. I understand that it's a pretty important moment, at least for our family, so it'll be a fun thing to celebrate with them all."

He now lives with his family in Idaho after moving out of Reno.

"It hasn't been the easiest for me, just because of my household income," Salinas said. "But I feel really grateful for having a sense of stability despite everything, and it's a huge privilege. Even [though] I get to complain about school during the pandemic, [there are] lots of students that this impacted even worse."

Salinas had originally planned to work in Las Vegas and wasn’t going to apply to graduate school immediately. His plans haven’t changed much, but he is concerned about the workforce he will be entering. Salinas does have his own goals for the summer.

"Ideally, I'd like to be out in the sun over summer and just working," Salinas said. "Then also enjoy my last summer in Reno. A lot of my friends are also going to be leaving for their other schools, or they're moving home, so I want to try to take advantage of the little time that we might have left."

Jayden Perez is a junior at the Reynolds School of Journalism.