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First Generation College Student a Trail Blazer

by Montclarion Feature
Dalvin Sejour, one of the leading students on campus, is a first generation college student. Photo Credit: Alex Gamboa

Dalvin Sejour, one of the leading students on campus, is a first generation college student.
Photo Credit: Alex Gamboa

As a young boy growing up in a strict Haitian household, Dalvin Josias Sejour was taught early to go to school, come home and go to church. Hardly allowed to go outside, he immersed himself in his school books and computer, often playing Cartoon Network games online.

Now a 19-year-old sophomore majoring in information technology at Montclair State, Sejour says his experience as a first generation college student and the challenges he faced growing up surrounded by violence and poverty without his birth parents has fortified him and fueled his ambition, prompting him to achieve the unexpected: an internship with Facebook.

“Being first to me means that I have the weight on my shoulders,” he says. “I’m like a trail blazer in a sense that my accomplishments and my failures dictate if my children or generations after me will succeed.”

Sejour was born in the United States and then moved to Haiti, where his birth parents were murdered in a home invasion. When he was 1 year old, he moved back to America, where he and his siblings were raised by his aunt and uncle.

“My adoptive parents are my role models, because they put in me the values that made me the man that I am today,” said Sejour. “They left their life being farmers to give a better life to me and my siblings, and they made a living by being a nurse and janitor to provide for us. If it wasn’t for me being brought up in that environment, I would probably have been in a gang.”

As a black boy raised in Irvington, New Jersey, joining a gang was a trap that Sejour was well aware of. Although he overcame negative stereotypes and beat the statistics of his city when he graduated from Irvington High School and went on to attend Montclair State, Sejour now faces stereotypes and statistics as a first-generation college student.

According to Georgetown University Center on Education and the U.S. Department of Education, three out of five first-generation college students do not complete a degree or credentials in six years. It is also estimated that approximately two-thirds of first-generation undergraduate students attend community college or for-profit institution. However, through his accomplishments, Sejour has proven that these statistics are no match for a driven college student determined to succeed against the odds.

Sejour was a peer leader for the Educational Opportunity Fund. Photo courtesy of Montclair Magazine

Sejour was a peer leader for the Educational Opportunity Fund.
Photo courtesy of Montclair Magazine

The sophomore, who is 6’0” tall, regularly attends classes in a suit, but he doesn’t necessarily need to try hard to look sophisticated. He sports prescription glasses and often walks around campus with a long pea coat, yet it is Sejour’s confident, humble demeanor that makes him stand out as an intellectual passionate about his studies.

Guided by the pressure of family along with the positive influence of his older brother and sister, as well as the support of his Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) counselors and friends, Sejour is highly motivated to achieve academically and socially.

When asked what his greatest accomplishment has been, Sejour said it was landing a summer 2016 internship with Facebook, where only 60 applicants out of 900 were selected for an interview, and he was one of a few to be accepted as an intern. “I would have never imagined this a few years ago while I was in Irvington High,” he said. “That really is one of my proudest moments.”

Upon meeting his EOF roommate, Moses Jean-Lewis, 20, who is also an information technology major, the two learned that they had more in common than they could have ever imagined. “I knew Dalvin since elementary school,” said Lewis. “I didn’t really notice him, and he lived like a block away from me. It wasn’t until the summer of EOF that we really connected.”

Lewis explains how although the two come from Haitian backgrounds and are members of the same Haitian community, often attending each other’s churches. The reason that they are really close is because they both push each other to be great. “If I need advice, I go to him — if he needs advice he comes to me,” said Lewis. “He’s probably the only person I trust with my business,” he added, with a laugh that sounded more like a sigh of relief to have a genuine friend.

Sejour’s EOF counselor, Michael Marcus, is new at Montclair State and to the EOF program. Marcus explained how he met his counselee last semester, yet felt that he already knew so much about him. “He’s highly intellectual, wise, and he’s motivated,” said Marcus. “Those three qualities stuck out to me.”

Resident assistant at Bohn Hall, member of the E-Board for The Brother Hood/La Hermandad fraternity and a former peer leader for EOF incoming FPreshman are just some of the leadership roles Sejour has been involved in during his year-and-a-half journey as an undergraduate student at Montclair State.

While he knows his hard work will pay off for him, he hopes that someday generations after him will also be able to benefit from his efforts.

“It’s like a generational thing,” said Sejour. “Like I keep this idea of giving back and allowing other people to prosper after the hard work that I put in. I hope that one day, I could have a scholarship or something so I can give back to people, like in Irvington or something.”

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