California State University, Fresno
First Generation Stories



Living Up to My Own Expectations

Guy Decatrel
Lecturer, Marketing and Logistics

As a first-generation child in the U.S., I had expectations for myself. During the 1950s, my family left the Caribbean for Brooklyn, New York. My parents had it tough at first. My father received many job rejections and other types of rejections as well. I decided then that an excellent education and strong communications skills were a necessity in my life. I would not have a future of dismissal and denial. I wanted to equip my mind with knowledge, gain experience, qualify and ready myself for a competitive world.

During this time, I worked several jobs and learned to take charge, to be responsible, and not wait to get things done.

Growing up in Brooklyn was stimulating. You had everything. You learned quickly, you became “street smart,” and you understood the intensity of competition.

Being the first in my family to go to college carried a strong responsibility. I first felt this load after being told that since I was very good with my hands and that I loved the outdoors, I might do better out of a university environment. This prospect frightened me—for a moment only. I quickly resolved to live up to my own expectations and those of my parents. I would succeed at the university and be my family’s first college graduate.

My most memorable experiences are of my fraternity and the many activities we contributed to on campus. The fraternity was a positive social link and a way to network. During this time, I worked several jobs and learned to take charge, to be responsible, and not wait to get things done. Acquiring these traits has helped me throughout my many years in corporate management and other work settings as well.

My best mentor during college was an aunt, who was brilliant and successful in the major I first chose to study, i.e., French. Although she completed the highest level of schooling available in the Caribbean at the time, it was not a university education. She, however, like some other people in my family, had a photographic memory and was a master of the French language. Having sought her help in this subject once before, she asked me to tell her what I liked about this major. After not being able to satisfactorily respond, she asked me what I was studying that I did like. Upon telling her, we engaged in a three hour subject discussion after which she said, “There you have it. Study what you enjoy studying.”

I’ve always been concerned with the principles, the methods, and questions about the how and why of things. Majoring in Philosophy helped me examine and develop frameworks for these concerns. This, in turn, facilitated my career in Marketing and Sales. I particularly like researching market and client needs and solve nagging problems with revenue producing solutions.

Another value I developed while in college was my responsibility to country and society. This conscientiousness grew as I continued my graduate and post-graduate education. I have had good opportunities at great American companies, have contributed to non-profit organizations in areas where I’ve lived, and I’ve watched my family prosper. My sense of responsibility also led me to contribute 22 memorable years in the U.S. Navy.

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