By Gineen K. Abuali, Saint Peter’s University ‘21

Adrista Ramirez (photo courtesy of Saint Peter’s University)    

Adrista Ramirez (photo courtesy of Saint Peter’s University)



Many students would admit that they are nervous and afraid about leaving college for the “real world.” This feeling is multiplied when they are the first in their family to do so.

But what if they are not only the first? What if they are also graduating at the time of a global pandemic?

This hypothetical was the reality for many students in the graduating class of 2021 at Saint Peter’s University. Adrista Ramirez is one of those students.

Ramirez was an accounting major who graduated from Saint Peter’s in June. She is continuing her education at the University this year, pursuing a Master of Science in Business Analytics, and will eventually sit for her Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exams.

She is the manifestation of her family’s pride and joy. Not only is Ramirez the first in her family to graduate from college, but she is also an active student leader. She is the friendly face on campus constantly inspiring other students.

How does Ramirez do it all?

She credits support from University staff and professors who have given her the structure she needs to succeed. From programs, workshops, the help of fellow students, staff and administrators, Ramirez passed through her senior year with flying colors. She wants other students to know that “if you need help, you simply need to reach out to the specific department, and they’ll help you with no problem.”

In April 2020, Saint Peter’s was designated as a First-gen Forward Institution “in recognition of the University’s demonstrated commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.” While the University has been helpful, the rest has been up to her. “Being a first-generation student gave me the grit and determination to keep pushing until I reached the finish line. I have never felt more accomplished in my life,” Ramirez explained.

Ramirez emphasizes qualities of persistence and resilience that have gotten her through college, as well as being able to see other first-generation students make it first-hand. She is a member of Alpha Alpha Alpha, also known as Tri-Alpha, the new honor society at Saint Peter’s that recognizes the academic achievements of first-generation students.

For Ramirez, the existence of Tri-Alpha is inspiring in and of itself. “I love that this honor society exists,” she said. “It makes you feel like your hard work is not going unnoticed along with who you are.”

In spite of a successful college career that helped her land a prestigious internship with Ernst & Young, Ramirez is still a young woman embarking on a new journey and starting a career for the first time. Like many others, she is nervous and afraid. She recognizes that the Covid pandemic has caused a lot of uncertainty, stress and mental health concerns. Yet she retains the confidence that she has built up after four years of college. Ramirez is still an ambitious woman who is determined to succeed, and will do everything in her power to make it happen.

She explains that this did not happen overnight.

“There were nights filled with tears, anxiousness and stress. What college taught me was to persevere. I leaned on my friends and family when I needed emotional support,” she said. “To be graduating during a global pandemic makes me feel a bit nervous. I question what the work field is going to look like. How is it going to change? What does that mean for me? While I am nervous, I am confident that everything will work out.”

Now more than ever, that support system is essential. Ramirez wants younger students to know that they should never take for granted the value of a constant support system. She also wants them to know that it is okay to struggle because that is natural. But the key is to always be willing to speak up and ask for help. After all, that is what has helped her to succeed.

Along with that advice, Ramirez has some parting words for students: “Keep the faith and continue to challenge yourself. Keep your head high, and continue to chase your dreams. Don’t let this discourage you. In fact, let it motivate you. You will get to tell your future employers and family how you navigated and managed to work through a global pandemic. That speaks great volumes about your character.”

Ramirez recently shared her story with alumni, donors and members of the wider Saint Peter’s community at this year’s Hearts & Minds: The Saint Peter’s University Scholarship Celebration. As a recipient herself, she shared what a scholarship meant to her. It made it possible for her to attend Saint Peter’s and graduate debt-free, which has been vital as she gets ready to enter the workforce. Ramirez is already paying it forward and made her first gift to the General Scholarship Fund. She said, “One day, I aspire to establish a scholarship of my own to help others the way I have been helped.”

Ramirez hopes to motivate and inspire current and future students who, like her, work hard every day to ensure that their dreams and the dreams of their families become a reality.