First generation college students were recognized for an entire week with the First2Geaux celebration at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. This was an opportunity for all students on campus to self-identify as first-generation students and participate in the events that recognized their achievement.
Cheylon Woods, a member of the planning committee for the First2Geaux celebration, described the week.
“First2Geaux celebration is a national celebration that happens on campuses at both four year and two year universities across the country to celebrate students who are either the first to attend a university or the first to complete a four year or two year degree in their family including their parents and their siblings,” Woods said.
The First2Geaux celebration was full of different types of events that students could participate in and the university basketball game that took place during the week was dedicated to the First2Geaux students. Finally, the week ended with dessert at the Student Union to finish off the celebration.
There was also an ongoing social media campaign and Twitter chat that allowed students to show their pride and support for first-generation students.
Among the students that are first in their family to attend college were students Hailey Langlois, a moving image arts major, and Brandon Richardson, a business administration major, who are working toward their bachelor’s degrees at UL Lafayette.
“I decided to attend college in order to set myself up to have access to any opportunity the world brought me. I wanted to have a degree in order to support my career choice.” Langlois said. “My major is moving image arts with a concentration in visual arts. My goal for graduation is to graduate with a 3.5 GPA or higher with an internship lined up.”
Many first-generation students have set high goals for themselves and find the motivation to graduate and complete their degree from their families and backgrounds.
“The main reason I wanted to attend college was because I wanted to gain financial independence for me and my future family,” Richardson said. “Thankfully, I was offered a generous scholarship offer, and in my opinion, you miss 100% of the chances you don’t take.”
First-generation students are completing a new undertaking that can be difficult not only for them, but other students as well. Navigating the process of different requirements such as financial aid or scheduling classes can be challenging.
First-generation students may struggle with finding support and other people with experience to assist them. However they can connect with their professors and access the free resources on campus to receive guidance and answers to their questions.
“The biggest challenge I faced was not having someone to turn to when I needed advice because I didn’t know many people who went to college. However, using resources on campus and rushing a fraternity I was able to connect with other people who dealt with the same issues with college that I was. I found a support group of like minded individuals thanks to the men of Lambda Chi Alpha at UL,” Richardson said.
The university wants first-generation students to succeed and acknowledge their hard work and progress. Graduating college is a milestone that students are accomplishing not only for them but also for their families and future.
“It means a lot to me and my family because I am achieving something that they were never able to because life got in the way. I am putting all of their sacrifices to good use and it was their dream for me to graduate,” Langlois said.
For first-generation students completing their degree is something they are proud to achieve. First2Geaux allows the opportunity for these students to be recognized, supported and express their pride to be the first in their family to achieve this accomplishment.