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First Generation Support Group: Turning over a new leaf

First Generation Support Group: Turning over a new leaf

First Generation Support Group: Turning over a new leaf
October 04
13:23 2019

Most college students have a family member they can go to with their questions about college. However, some students are the first in their family to attend college, and each student has a different situation that varies from the other first-generation students.

Tri Tolar, a facility member in the Counseling and Testing Services, created the first-generation support group to help first-generation students. Tolar said this support group is under TRiO, a student support service that helps low income students, first-generation students and students with disabilities.

“First Gen Support Group is one of  the weekly workshops offered by Counseling and Testing Services,” Tolar said. “First-generation college students can attend this group as it fits with their schedule. That is to say, students are free to attend when they can and there is no expected commitment for students to attend the workshop each week. However, since each session of the workshop will cover different topic[s], students are encouraged to attend multiple sessions throughout the semester.”

Tolar said she tried to start this support group last semester, but only two students had shown up for the semester. Now working under TRiO, she said she hopes more students will show up because she started this support group with the goal to help these first-generation students.

“First Gen Support Group offers a safe space for first-generation college students to explore issues related to adjusting to life as college student, which may include but [is] not limited to navigating unfamiliar situations, juggling finances and socializing, managing responsibilities, translating abilities to college success and empowerment through connecting with help and support,” Tolar said.

Social worker freshman Itsy Castaneda is a first-generation student who has attended a First Generation Support Group session. She said as a first-generation student in her family, she feels all the eyes on her and one little mistake can be seen by everyone in her family.

“I hope the support group can give me tips and tricks on how to get around college,” Castaneda said.

Accounting senior Gabriela Vargas works with TRiO and is also a first-generation student. She has been a part of student service programs since high school.

“I think it’s a really great thing that they’re doing because I sometimes feel like we could be left in the dark,” Vargas said. “Other students whose parents went to college, if they have any questions or anything, they can just go to their parents. We didn’t even know where to start and [the support group] helps us get out there and we need that support.”

Vargas said student programs are underrated and thinks students push these programs away because they think the programs don’t do much. However, she said, these programs are here to help students both during and after college.

Speech therapy junior Latasya Booker is a first-generation student and a mentor at TRiO. She said she supports the first-generation group and knows firsthand the challenges that students face.

Booker said that there are also differences between first-generation students— those with money and those without. She said that the paperwork for college is easy, but knowing what paperwork you need to do is the hard part. She said if a first-generation student has money, they only have to worry about the paperwork factor, but there are other things that can pile up if you don’t have money. 

“For me, being a first-gen student is hard because I am so busy trying to maintain my scholarship to have in-state tuition,” Booker said. “I like being a mentor because I can be hard on them to help them out. I feel like we all need that stability and that one person helping us out.”

Tolar said she hopes to help the first-generation students on their journey and wants to help the students when they are seeking challenges.

“My hope is for our first-gen students to feel more confident about their decision to attend college, to feel more hopeful, empowered and validated when facing challenges and to get connected with all the support (on personal and institutional levels, on and off campus) they need to be successful in college,” Tolar said.

Featured ImageTri Tolar works in counseling and testing services at UNT. Tolar created the First Generation Support Group to help first generation students make their way through college. Image by Jacob McCready

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Julia Lopez

Julia Lopez

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