MARIETTA, OHIO—Washington State Community College will celebrate its first-generation college students during its First-Gen Fearless Days, November 16-17, 2020.
Across the nation, 56-percent of undergraduate students are first-generation, which means neither of their parents have a bachelor’s degree, and at Washington State, that figure jumps to 73-percent. First-generation students tend to lack some of the resources and knowledge necessary to navigate the complex college system. Without the support of a college graduate to guide them, first-gen students can struggle to apply to college and graduate on time.
Dean of Student Success Kathy Temple-Miller said the college is hosting First-Gen Fearless Days because they want to “draw attention to the everyday struggles that first-gen students have gone through, whether they’re current students or faculty and staff members who were first-gen.”
She explained that in addition to financial challenges, “first-generation students are navigating a system that is new to them, that taxes them experientially, psychologically, and emotionally.”
Throughout the two-day event, many instructors have designated the first five minutes of class to share personal testimonies about their first-gen struggles, as a large portion were first-generation students themselves. “This is about breaking down barriers between faculty and students, creating important connections and understanding,” said Temple-Miller. “It’s about taking the time to learn about the student perspective, and the student voice as well as allowing them to see that they have champions in their midst,” she continued.
The college will also host events designed to create awareness and further encourage conversations, including a scavenger hunt and selfie station. Additionally, there will be encouraging chalk messages written on campus sidewalks as well as First-Gen Fearless facemasks.
“As a proud first-generation college graduate myself, I am honored to be part of an institution committed to first-generation student success,” said Temple-Miller. “These students are a vital part of our campus community and I’m proud of the work we do to support their efforts to earn an education.”
She said the college wants to use the occasion to educate the campus community and highlight the resources and support available through the Center for Student Success (CSS). “It’s important that these students understand that we are here to provide support through programs and resources throughout their college experience, from enrollment to employment.”
While the CSS staff serve as support to all students, Temple-Miller said their role regarding first-gen students is to equip them with the tools necessary to be successful on campus and beyond. “It isn’t easy making the decision to go to college, as many don’t even know where to start. So as a campus, we acknowledge that fear and are working hard to streamline our processes.”
Among the changes made by the college are personalized support during the enrollment process, removal of placement testing requirements for general admission, and more robust student support provided by the Center for Student Success. “First-generation students at Washington State are deserving of recognition. They are taking a new risk, accepting a new challenge, and are on their way to be the first member of their family to earn a degree,” said Temple-Miller. “First-Gen Fearless Days is a way we can applaud their efforts and celebrate their achievements.”