At Texas Tech, first generation students are recognized and formally guided through its First Generation Transition and Mentoring Programs.
As of this month, a variety of events will be hosted in the effort of empowering first generation students. The first of its five events began on Monday, Nov.9 at the SUB North Plaza, where staff members of the program offered participants with swag bags, t-shirts and social and academic resource information.
“First generation students are those of whom family members have not earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college in the United States; so these students may not have the same navigational capital compared to students whose parents did go to or finished college,” Shruti Nelson, assistant director of the First Generation Transitioning & Mentoring Program said.
The program helps students maximize their college experience through engagement and peer mentorship, Nelson said.
Peer mentors are currently enrolled TTU undergraduate or graduate students formally trained to serve mentees. A caseload of first generation students is assigned to each mentor per semester, where they conduct one-on-one or group meetings, share updates and announcements and attend university programming together, according to the First Generation Transition & Mentoring Programs website
In the age where social distancing, mask-wearing and cellphones have transformed the community appearance to look less approachable, the program strives to especially enhance first gen student camaraderie and networking by hosting virtual mix and mingle sessions, yoga sessions, cooking demonstrations and other self-care activities throughout the semester, Nelson said.
Brandon Cruz, director of the Transitioning & Mentoring Program said the student body of first gens is unique as to which they do not have an archetype, even as they comprise 25 percent of the student population.
“Our students are diverse and multifaceted, so our goal is to create visibility so that we can find that community amongst one another," Cruz said. "We also strive to educate our faculty staff about the supportive measure’s students need in and outside of the classroom, like adding to first generation students’ toolkits on how to be successful in their classwork. These toolkits may be academic feedback and recommendations to name a few."
The program also supports the preparation and transition of first-generation students interested in study abroad opportunities. First generation students make up 20 percent of the study abroad student population, according to Tech’s Study Abroad website
Cruz said that big decisions like studying abroad can be nerve-wracking, but they are dedicated to getting students to where they want to be in a couple of years, no matter the decisions they make for themselves.
“The truth is, we’re all just clueless and we want someone to guide us, to help us step up academically, especially for us first gens, whose parents expect us to live up to such high standards," Alyssa Aguirre, a junior double major in social work and psychology, from San Antonio, said. "Getting into college is already difficult as it is, but to do great in college is something else, thankfully we have the resources that help make that happen. I appreciate them (first gen peer mentors).”
Although Aguirre has no plans on joining the program due to her busy schedule, she said that by simply attending first-generation events, she has learned many resources that she herself use to help her friends navigate through college.
The heart of the program is allyship, and that could be as formal as entering a peer mentorship or informal as to simply reaching out to a faculty-members, Cruz said.
A full list of First Generation events can be found here: https://www.depts.ttu.edu/diversity/FGTMP/FirstGenWeek/events.php