Battling strict deadlines and hard curriculum can be a lot for any student. Being a first-generation student, however, presents even more challenges.
First-generation citizens are the first members of their families to have been born in the U.S. First-generation can also encompass those who are the first in their family to go to college, regardless of birthplace. Often, first-generation students fit both definitions.
Experiencing one culture at home and then navigating a completely separate one on campus can cause many educational and language barriers to arise.
First-Gen Owls is a student group that was founded to provide first-generation students with resources and companionship. One way FGO does this is through the First-Gen Student Spotlight.
The Student Spotlight was founded by KSU student Jayne Chukwudinma in January in order to build awareness around first-generation issues. Each spotlight is released biweekly online at firstgen.kennesaw.edu/spotlight/students.php.
The spotlighting process consists of an interview in which Chukwudinma typically asks general questions about the interviewees’ experience as a first-generation student. She said that it is important to hear as many perspectives as possible and to give the participant control over the presentation of their story.
“We try to get interviews with everyone who applies,” Chukwudinma said. “I enjoy hearing other’s first-gen stories. When I finish transcribing the applicant’s words, I send a copy to them for their input, and then send a copy to [editor] Josh for formatting.”
The subject of the first spotlight was Madeleine Carden, a sophomore nursing major.
“Applying to college and doing everything for the first time was especially challenging because no one in my family really knew how to help me,” Carden said. “On top of that, I hadn’t been accepted to university yet so I did not realize all of the resources that were available, like FAFSA. Now that I am a member of FGO, I’ve been able to help others and receive advice from others with similar backgrounds.”
The second Student Spotlight was junior psychology major Felicia Echeverria, who said she believes that FGO is an asset for those who want to mix their domestic culture with that of the U.S.
“We are a part of the culture we have brought from our family and that runs deep, but we are constantly influenced by the culture in the U.S. that surrounds us,” Echeverria said. “The two often collide, but more often, they blend beautifully to create a new culture that paves the way for future generations and ideas.”
Chukwudinma is a graduate student from Georgia State University and came to KSU to seek a masters in public administration to become an attorney. Chukwudinma cited the community of multicultural students at Georgia State as a major factor in why she wanted to be a part of FGO.
“I had a hard time with feeling out of place in high school,” Chukwudinma said. “My counselors couldn’t help much with problems at home, and my parents couldn’t offer much with problems at school, but at Georgia State, there were plenty of others like me, so I never felt left out.”
Chukwudinma will be graduating May 2020 and plans to attend law school. Upon graduation, her duties with the Student Spotlight will pass to other contributors who she hopes to see maintain the organization’s importance.
“There are so many different stories, some slip through the cracks,” Chukwudinma said. “Try your hardest to hear from faculty, staff and students as much as possible. Some of them feel they don’t belong. They can participate in FGO or read the student spotlights though to get the sense of belonging that they need.”
For more information on the FGO, spotlights and participation, visit firstgen.kennesaw.edu.