Kaiyla Woods didn’t know what “First-Gen” meant when she started college at Texas State University. It wasn’t until later in her freshman year that Woods realized “First-Gen” was a special name for what she was–the first member of her family to attend college. She’s a First-Generation college student.
For the last 5 years, each academic year, Texas State University has had 44-46% of their undergraduate students be First-Gen. 41% of spring graduates were First-Gen.
During that week, First Gen Proud held its annual First-Gen Week, where departments recognize the hard efforts of first-generation college students and their success by organizing events. Two of the many events were entitled Navigating TXST as a First Generation Student hosted by the Common Experience and Get Cozy with CoSE hosted by the College of Science & Engineering.
On Thursday, November 10, from 9:00am to 11:00am, the College of Science & Engineering (CoSE) put together a network reception for its first-generation students. This event took place in the Chemistry quad by the Vaquero statue and provided the opportunity for students to meet First-Gen programs, student organizations, and resources accompanied by hot cider, hot chocolate, and donuts.
On Tuesday, November 15, from 6:00pm to 7:00pm, the Common Experience arranged Navigating TXST as a Non-Traditional First Generation student, where non-traditional and First-Generation student Victoria Jordan shared her unique challenges and student success. This Q&A event took place in the Undergraduate Academic Center (UAC).
First-Gen students are not only supported that week but there are also plenty of first-generation resources. One of them is FLIP (First Generation Low Income Partnership), a Texas State student organization that provides support and community for all First-Gen students.
Texas State Associate Dean for Student Services Victoria Black who also works closely with the First Gen Proud initiative, says her team asked around the school if they were First Generation to try and build a community.
This then turned into First Gen Proud, a huge resource for the First Generation community at Texas State which facilitated First Gen Week.
Black said it was great to see so many other students, faculty, and staff who were also First-Gen.
“I chair our First Gen Proud committee that helps advance the work supporting our First-Gen students,” Black said.
Black also touched on when she realized she First-Gen.
“I realized I was first-gen when I was in graduate school. It wasn’t recognized as a point of pride like it is now. I knew both my parents didn’t graduate from college and I was going to be the first, but I didn’t know about the important designation,” Black said.
5 Texas State students shared when they found out they were First-Gen. Through their answers, we can see the difference in stories.
On Tuesday, November 22, Texas State held an Instragam Q&A with University President Kelly Damphousse, where students had the opportunity to ask anything. One of the questions asked Damphousse to talk about his First-Gen story.
Damphousse said the hardest thing with being First-Gen was not feeling like he belonged and thinking that everyone had it all figured out.
Damphousse mentioned being afraid to ask for help was another of his First-Gen struggles.
“I always encourage students to ask for help because there’s a whole campus full of professionals who dedicate the whole crew to helping people be successful,” Damphousse said.
Rafael Almanzar, the Director for Peer Mentoring and First-Gen Student Success also shares his First-Gen story.
Almanzar said there weren’t really discussions about being a First Generation student back when he started college in 2004 and it’s interesting now that First-Gen is everywhere.
Now Almanzar is in charge of First-Gen initiatives at Texas State University.
“I was in charge of First-Gen celebration week which means I was collaborating with different offices and units on campus to celebrate not only First Generation students but also faculty and staff,” Almanzar said.
Danielle Rubio, Texas State senior and FLIP member talks about her experience as a First-Gen student.
One of her struggles as a First-Gen student was feeling First-Gen guilt.
“First-Gen guilt still eats me alive and I’m a senior about to graduate. Thinking that I get to experience all of these things that my parents never got the opportunity to do so. I sit back a realize that I’m going to school for free because of my accomplishments… I am living my parents’ dream,” Rubio said.
Interested in getting involved with First-Gen at Texas State University? Visit the First Gen Proud website, where you can connect, support, and learn more about First-Gen.