I’m First Organization offers support for first-generation students

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I’m First Organization offers support for first-generation students

Guerrero and Mason are the co-chairs of I'm F1rst.

Guerrero and Mason are the co-chairs of I'm F1rst.

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Guerrero and Mason are the co-chairs of I'm F1rst.

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Photo by Elena Fiegen

Guerrero and Mason are the co-chairs of I'm F1rst.

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Leon Mason said he would compare being a first-generation student to being in a new city with no phone and having no idea where anything is.

A junior in the College of Arts & Sciences and co-chair of I’m First, Mason said he knows the struggles he went through coming into college as a first-generation student, and he understands that some students may need a little extra support.  

The conversation about forming a first-generation student organization on campus began last year, and the plan moved forward this fall.

The initial I’m First meeting took place Sept. 11 in the Henke Lounge, and Mason said more than 50 people attended. 

Clara Dwyer, the assistant director of the Center of Engagement and Inclusion, said the the number of first-generation students at Marquette is over 1,700 and continues to grow. 

Dwyer said she is able to help students navigate the programming planning process in her role.

“I’m F1rst is a very important organization on campus because it is student-led and helps to foster a sense of community among students who identify as the first in their family to attend and pursue their college degree,” Dwyer said in an email.

The official adviser for the organization is Stephanie Rivera-Berruz, an assistant professor in the philosophy department.

Evelia Guerrero, a junior in the College of Nursing, is a co-chair with Mason. The executive board in entirety consists of seven individuals. 

Guerrero is a first-generation student herself and she said she believes it is important to form a community of support for first-generation students.

“As much support (as) my parents tried to give me … it was hard to navigate by myself,” Guerrero said.  “So we can create a network, a family (in which) we are on the same boat together.”

Guerrero said there were speakers and food at the first meeting, but the structure of the coming meetings will vary.

Another goal of the organization is to “tailor things more to the needs of first-generation students,” Mason said. He added that giving them a space and an outlet is an important part of the organization. 

Simon Howard, a professor of psychology at Marquette, and acting provost Kimo Ah Yun talked about their experiences as first-generation students in college. Joya Crear, the assistant vice president for Student Affairs, also spoke as an ally for the organization and for first-generation students. 

In the future, Mason said the organization aims to create a mentoring program for first-generation students. He compared it to a big brother/big sister program, where a senior could be paired with an underclassman to mentor them in their early days at college.

The organization also plans to collaborate with other groups on campus, Guerrero said. She said it hopes to work closely with Student Affairs, the Counseling Center and multicultural groups on campus.

She said the organization was amazed at the amount of support it received at its first meeting.

“The support from administration and different students was really heartwarming,” Guerrero said. 

Another aim of the club is to become recognized as a campus resource, Mason said. He said the organization strives to be a safe space for first-generation students where they can be themselves. 

Meetings for I’m First are tentatively scheduled biweekly Wednesday nights, Guerrero said. The exact time is to be announced. 

“Meetings will vary location in an effort to highlight and introduce different locations so that students can find their own space on campus,” Guerrero said.

Guerrero said she hopes the organization “gives first-gen students the platform to express themselves.”

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