By Amanda Guevara and Marvin Villanueva, Nov. 15, 2022
Cal Poly Pomona’s I Am First program celebrated first-generation students by hosting a variety of events on campus last week such as a budget simulation and a first-gen mixer.
CPP defines a first-generation college student as a student whose parents or guardians never received a bachelor’s degree in the United States. Since 57% of CPP students are a part of this demographic, the events were held to honor these students and showcase resources they may not be aware of.
During the Kick-Off Celebration at the start of the week, students that attended were provided free goodies, a photobooth, a DJ and workshops to give back to the community.
“As a first-gen student I’m most proud of breaking generational curses in my family,” said Ruth Kent, hospitality management student. “Many people have tried to achieve a college education and there’s been obstacles in the way that stops them from being able to pursue higher education and get a degree, so it really means a lot to be the first in my family to do that.”
According to the assistant coordinator for First-Generation Programs for the Office of Student Success, Equity and Innovation Nonzenzele Aldonza, these events aim to honor and provide visibility to all first-gen students, faculty and staff.
“I Am First is for the entire campus,” Aldonza said. “Our overarching goal is ultimately to help all of our first-generation students find that sense of belonging, find representations of themselves, making sure that we’re being visible and making sure that their perspectives and voices are being included in the entire campus.”
During the weeklong celebration students learned about the different resources provided on campus such as the Broncos Care Center, a hub where students can be connected to on and off campus resources or the Reading, Advising and Mentoring Program which provides eligible students with reading tutorials, peer monitoring and academic, career and personal advising.
Events were held virtually and in-person
On Nov. 7 guest speaker, Long Beach Community College’s Superintendent-President Mike Muñoz, shared his experience of how he navigated college as a first-generation student. There was also a virtual presentation for students to learn about the unwritten rules that lead to college success.
On Nov. 8 the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences held its First-Generation Faculty Panel. CLASS students were able to connect and ask questions to professors who have dealt with similar first-gen issues. Faculty also gave career, networking and post-graduation advice.
Aldonza hopes events such as these provide students with a sense of community by connecting them with other first-generation students and faculty. In doing so, she believes that students will be able to combat feelings of imposter syndrome, create meaningful connections and feel honored and celebrated on their own college campus.
The First-Gen Student Mixer on Nov. 9 gave students the opportunity to meet other first-generation students. During the event students were paired with one another and were continuously rotated so that they meet and greet other students who are also first-generation.
I Am First also offers a mentorship program where they cater to the first-generation students’ experience by assigning them a mentor with the same career path who was also a first generation student.
“It’s to have someone that really understands your experience,” said Jacqueline Naranjo, senior coordinator of Academic Support & Engagement. “You may be an engineer major looking for someone to help you understand the field, so let’s connect you to a first-gen engineer faculty member.”
Naranjo said it is a really unique mentorship program because they are really targeting their first-generation community which can be empowering for students.
Details about the I Am First mentorship program can be found on their webpage on CPP’s website. Any first-generation student who is seeking a mentor can submit a mentee interest form online and can connect to a faculty member who is similar to them.
Feature image by Marvin Villanueva
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