Author: Sydney Bowman
The Office of Intercultural Affairs recently launched the 1G: First Generation Success Program and will hold a kick-off event for this new initiative today at 6:00 p.m. in Dumke Commons.
1G is designed to assist first generation college students in finding and expressing their authentic selves with the ultimate goal of establishing professional connections, according to Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs Joel Gutierrez.
Gutierrez, the 1G program director, hopes that this initiative will increase graduation and retention rates among first generation students at Occidental, while also improving their collegiate experience. Co-President of the First Generation Club Mylan Gerbeyesus (junior), who acts as a liaison to 1G, said it is the first program with administrative assistance and structure to serve first-generation students on campus.
1G will last the duration of the school year and include off-campus retreats for first-generation students as well as themed workshops based on students’ interests, according to Gutierrez. All first generation students, not just first-year students, will be invited to attend these events.
The culmination of the program’s first year will feature an exhibition of the students’ stories and a showcase focusing on their identities. More details about the exhibition will be released after the kick-off event.
The new initiative came out of a series of discussions in focus groups last spring, in which students discussed what kinds of resources they would like to see provided for first generation college students. These focus groups were a result of cooperation between the First Generation Club and the Office of Intercultural Affairs, according to Gerbeyesus.
“We’re really trying to focus on making sure that first generation college students are aware that there is this community and people to reach out to,” Gerbeyesus said.
The First Generation Club created and maintains a community of people who understand what it is like to be a first generation student, club member Karen Oliva (junior) said — yet she still sees room for improvement.
“I feel like the community here is not as strong as it is on other campuses,” Oliva said via email. “Our club is relatively new and we haven’t had as much time to really foster that strong sense of community. As we enter our third year of existence, we hope to strengthen our community and make the first generation presence on campus felt.”
With the support of clubs, students, faculty and administration on campus, 1G has already seen a considerable amount of interest from students, according to Gutierrez, who has received several emails expressing enthusiasm for the kick-off event.
“I would be interested in participating in the program,” Oliva said via email. “1G will bring first generation students together, provide us with important resources and help us feel supported on campus.”
During the 1G kick-off event today, first generation students will have the opportunity to meet one another and mingle with faculty.
“To be able to provide something that is from the vision of students is going to be awesome,” Gutierrez said.
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