First generation students make family history


Michelle Ledesma Ceron

The first generation student celebration event had a diverse panel where members discussed their experiences as first generation college students.

Michelle Ledesma Ceron, Staff Writer

What classes should I sign up for next semester? Do I qualify for financial aid? What is a S.A.C? All of these questions arise for many new college students. While some of us can rely on our parents to guide us through the maze that college can sometimes be, many students are the first in their families to receive higher education.

On Nov. 4th, Madison College Truax Campus held a conference and panel for first generation students. The panel consisted of Pa Done Yang, Joe Maldonado, Jamal Eubanks, and Yesenia Villalpando, all first-generation professionals. The conference was called First Generation Student Celebration.

The diverse panel held an open conversation where each member was able to discuss their personal experiences as first generation college students. The conference went from 11 a.m to 2 p.m, with a lunch break in between. This event welcomed both students and faculty. Nawel Faouzi, who graduated from Madison East High School last year, was one of the students that attended this event. When asked what it meant to her, Faouzi replied, “a lot. I have no idea what I should do, which is why I joined TRiO. I was going to try to wing it, but then I was I was like ‘Oh, I need help around here.’”

Dr. Jeff Galligan, the director of TRiO and Men of Excellence program, and one of the people in charge of planning the event, expressed that “Being a first gen student is something to be proud of. There are resources for first gen students. This celebration really highlights those experiences.”

RISE was nationally debuted three years ago specifically to help students that might need extra support. Retention Initiative Student Enrollment (RISE) director, Janine Wilson and Student Support Lead of RISE, Luz Arroyo were also at this event. Wilson and Arroyo played major roles at this conference. They helped to organize, answer questions, and guide people towards resources.

“So many times, we focus on the deficit part of being a first-generation student that we forget to acknowledge the journey and the accomplishment that it is,” expressed Arroyo. Wilson echoed Arroyo’s sentiment when asked about the role RISE plays in the life of first-generation students; he voiced that being a first-generation student “is something worth recognizing…they are breaking the mold in their families and in their communities a lot of the time, and showing that they can be a role model.”

The large rounded tables in room D1630 made it easier for attendees to make connections. It was evident that people felt a sense of community through the loud conversations and laughter.

As we begin our individual journeys through college, we can forget we aren’t alone. As first-generation students, we feel motivation to succeed. Sometimes we feel like we must answer our own questions because we are unsure of who else can.

The First Generation Student Celebration reminded us that we can extend our hands for help. If you’d like to connect with RISE, their office is in room D1651 at Truax Campus and room 109 at Goodman South campus. They are also available at [email protected]