by VIKRAM SUNDERRAJAN
Being a new student in college can be extremely difficult, and none know this struggle more so than first generation students. First generation students must adapt to a new culture that they can’t rely on their parents for help with. As a result, first generation students can often feel lost on campus, as though they don’t belong. That’s why NASPA, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, started First Generation Student Day. This event is meant to celebrate the first generation students who seek a higher education, and to support them wherever they need it.
The Center for First-generation Student Success is the group formed by NASPA to ensure that first generation students are given the help they need to succeed. The organization was first formed in 2016 and has been able to reach out to over 100 different universities to receive support in providing the best care for first-generation students. When Marina Verlengia, the Director of New Student Programs as well as Orientation & Welcome Weekend, saw the opportunity, she took it upon herself to integrate this event into life at Drake.
While her role may seem to focus only on first years, Marina’s position is truly meant for all students, regardless of age or heritage, and by creating another event to celebrate the students of Drake who may feel out of place, Marina hopes to bring all students together to support one another. First Generation Student Day is an opportunity for the people who have left their comfort zone for the best education they can get to be recognized and appreciated for their efforts.
It is seldom realized just how defined first generation students are within Drake’s culture, as Katie Simpson, the Undergraduate Assistant for New Student Programming, pointed out, “roughly 14% of the student population is composed of first generation students, and an even larger percent of faculty also fit into this category.” Because of this, it is only fitting that Drake joined the cause and recognized these students.
First Generation Student Day happened on November 8th, and Drake celebrated its first generation students and faculty with the intention of making Drake truly feel like home. With students such as Genesis Buckhalton managing a run on Painted Street in addition to other events, Marina made sure that a day to celebrate students was managed by the students.
The main event of the day was a bruncheon held for many first generation students and faculty of Drake, as an opportunity for them to meet and converse over their experiences. The bruncheon was extremely productive and students who attended reported feeling glad that they were able to find people in the same situation as themselves.
First Generation Student Day was a huge success at Drake, but Katie Simpson noted much bigger plans. Starting with a page on the official Drake website dedicated to addressing first generation students, the New Student Programming department hopes to provide all the help they can and more to make sure that every student feels at home at Drake.