Trying to navigate without a roadmap can be what it feels like for a first-generation student who decides to pursue higher education. In support of those students who are the first in their families to attend college, New Mexico State University will participate in a nationwide event, First-Generation College Celebration, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, at Corbet Center Student Union.
The event will include a table of staff members from the College Assistance Migrant Program, Chicano Programs, Student Support Services STEMH, TRIO Student Support Services Program, Upward Bound Programs and the Student Success Center to meet and greet first-generation students and free giveaways. A first-generation student is someone whose parents or parent haven’t completed a bachelor’s degree.
Carol Hicks, TRIO Student Support Success program director, said they hope to celebrate the first-generation students and connect them with resources to help them succeed. An estimated 33 percent of NMSU students at the Las Cruces campus are first-generation students.
“A lot of efforts campus wide are being made in order to understand the population as well as making sure we serve them properly,” Hicks said.
A first-generation student who earned both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from NMSU, Johana Bencomo said it’s often a culture shock for first-generation students when they arrive on campus.
“Faculty, staff and administration should be patient with us,” she said. “Most of us have already overcome so many barriers just to get to college, all we need is someone to help us believe in ourselves to make it through and succeed.
“The biggest challenge for me was the lack of understanding of the university system. While there is a lot of support at NMSU for first-generation students, finding them or asking the right questions is incredibly difficult. There’s a sense of pressure and responsibility that we carry, seeking help is that first step to not carrying that load all alone,” said Bencomo, who is director of organizing for New Mexico Comunidades en Acción y de Fé.
Hicks said NMSU’s commitment to helping first-generation students includes initiatives such as admissions assistance and a presentation during orientation, the summer transition program for Aggie Pathway and programs like TRIO SSS.
“I think talking to someone who has gone through that or had to navigate things for themselves are great role models and mentors for these students,” Hicks said. She added many faculty and staff at NMSU are first-generation graduates.
The First-Generation College Celebration began in 2017 when the Council for Opportunity in Education partnered with the Center for First-generation Student Success, a National Association of Student Personnel Administrators initiative and The Suder Foundation.
To learn more about the First-Generation College Celebration, visit https://firstgen.naspa.org/engagement/2019-first-generation-college-celebration.