In the 10 years since Sabrina Miller graduated from high school, she became the first member of her family to earn a college degree, worked for two college access programs and is currently in graduate school.
Name: Sabrina Miller
Hometown: Cave Junction, Oregon
High School: Illinois Valley High School
Colleges: Rogue Community College: Oregon Transfer Module, 2010
Southern Oregon University: Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies, 2013
University of California, Los Angeles: Masters of Arts in Higher Education and Organizational Change, 2017
Year in school: Third year doctoral student
Major: Higher Education and Organizational Change PhD program at UCLA
Activities involved in on campus: Currently I work as a College Academic Mentor in the UCLA College of Letters & Sciences, and I also serve as a Signatory Member to the First-Generation Graduate Student Council at UCLA.
What is one of the best things about college?
Coming from a very small and remote town, college has allowed me to experience aspects of life I never had exposure to before, including meeting people from all over the world and from different backgrounds.
How has GEAR UP helped you?
I have so many fond memories of GEAR UP at my high school. GEAR UP took many students, including myself, on several college and educational field trips that I would have never been able to attend otherwise. Being a rural first-generation, low-income college student, the college process felt very foreign and inaccessible to me. GEAR UP helped me to see that college wasn’t as far away as it felt, and that I had a community supporting me throughout the entire process.
What are your future career plans?
I plan to continue working to advocate for underrepresented students in higher education, and to work to change structural barriers that keep these students from attending college. I also see myself continuing to work with college access programs such as GEAR UP [she previously worked for College Dreams and California's College OPTIONS GEAR UP program], to address systemic issues in the college-going process for schools and students alike.
I simply couldn’t fathom how I could survive college, and how I would afford college. I won’t tell you it’s easy, but I will tell you I discovered it is most definitely worth it.
What advice do you have for middle/high/college students?
Growing up, it was so difficult to picture my future, and to picture my future beyond being the life I was born into. By the time I graduated from high school, I had moved over 23 times. Because of this, I didn’t actually learn things like fractions or decimals, until college. I had to piece together my education, and I felt like I might never catch up. I spent the majority of my childhood without stable housing, and I couch-surfed for most of high school.
There were many days when I wondered if college was going to be actually worth it, when I spent most days surviving pay check to pay check and no one in my immediate family had a college degree. I simply couldn’t fathom how I could survive college, and how I would afford college.
Here’s my advice, even at the most difficult, and hardest points of my life I realized that I had thought of all the reasons why I shouldn’t succeed, but then I thought “why NOT me?” So, I worked even harder, I showed up for opportunities I wasn’t qualified for, and I asked a lot of questions even if I thought they were dumb. I decided the only person qualified to tell me I couldn’t do something was myself, and knew that if I wanted a different life for myself than the one I was born into, then I had to think differently and make different decisions for myself.
I won’t tell you it’s easy, but I will tell you I discovered it is most definitely worth it.