College celebrates first-generation week

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By Dylan Villalon

sac-ranger@alamo.edu

The college will be celebrating with an entire week of virtual events starting Nov. 2 leading up to National First-Generation College Celebration Day on Nov. 8.

The day of celebration was launched in 2017 by the Council for Opportunity in Education and the Center for First-generation Student Success.

The Center for First-generation Student Success is the product of an initiative by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators based in Washington, D.C.

The Council for Opportunity in Education is a nonprofit organization that works with colleges and universities across the U.S to help students enter and graduate college.

Both organizations are dedicated to expanding the opportunities for first-generation students.

The definition of a first-generation student varies slightly depending on the source.

“The Trio definition is what we typically refer to,” said adviser Sabrina Macal-Polasek, who is serving as coordinator for the week of celebration.

Trio refers to three programs: Upward Bound, Talent Search and Student Support Service which exist under the Higher Education Act signed in 1965, and are dedicated to helping students complete a post-secondary education.

Trio defines first-generation students as “an individual both of whose parents did not complete a baccalaureate.”

“But if you feel like a first-gen student, then we don’t want to invalidate that,” Macal-Polasek said, noting that celebrating first-generation students starts with inclusivity.

Continuing Generation is a term used by the Center for First-generation Student Success to identify students who have at least one parent with a bachelor’s or higher degree.

According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, 64% of students attending a public two-year college are first-generation.

The study also indicates that 56% of all undergraduate students in the U.S are first-generation as of academic year 2015-16, whether attending a two-year college or four-year university.

More detailed information and facts regarding first-generation and continuing-generation students can be found at https://firstgen.naspa.org/research-and-policy/national-data-fact-sheets-on-first-generation-college-students/national-data-fact-sheets.

Macal-Polasek is a first-generation student herself, and spoke about her first experience at college.

“I remember being in college for the first time, being afraid to go into the business department to ask the right questions. There’s a big difference between high school and college,” Macal-Polasek said.

Macal-Polasek also mentioned the impact that first-generation students make on their own families. “First-gen students are accomplishing great things in their family. I have had aunts and uncles ask me about college.”

Four virtual events have been organized by the college, starting with a kickoff event from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. Nov. 2 featuring President Robert Vela and keynote speaker Erika Prosper who will address how to persevere through the challenges that first -generation students face.

Prosper is the first lady of San Antonio and an H.E.B executive who also served as chairwoman of the San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2018.

Projects that Prosper has overseen as chairwoman include an entrepreneurship workbook tailored specifically to children and advocating against the unfair targeting of Latinos by law enforcement in San Antonio.

Following the kickoff event, a first-generation panel discussion will be, from 3-4 p.m. Nov. 4 and will include Vela; Matthew Kerns, chair of mathematics, architecture and engineering; Geraldo Guerra, the coordinator for the student learning assistance center; and students Braxton Lanes and Kenneth Sanchez. Dr. Dewanna Greer, a project director at the college, will moderate.

The panel will discuss strategies on how to overcome obstacles as first-generation students, such as economic disparity and self-confidence and will take questions from students.

A considerable gap can be seen in the median parental income (MPI) among first-generation and continuing-generation students:

First-generation (MPI) : $41,000

Continuing-generation (MPI): $90,000

Self-confidence and imposter syndrome are two obstacles that first-generation students commonly face when entering college for the first time.

Imposter Syndrome is a psychological phenomenon that has been identified as more common in first-generation students in recent studies published in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal.

The “imposter experience” as it is sometimes referred to, describes an individual doubting their abilities or talent and has a persistent internalized fear of being “found out” by their peers as not capable.

This self-doubt often overrides feelings of success despite external proof of their abilities.

Mental health and economic hardship are just two of the conversations the college wants to open regarding first-generation students.

From 6-8 p.m. Nov. 6 is an evening social for first-generation students, including music from DJ Men-Yo and a chance to play Kahoot trivia and win prizes.

The social event will be on the colleges’ YouTube channel. The link can be found below.

In addition to hosting games and giving prizes, the college plans to unveil a brand new initiative geared toward providing resources and support for first-generation students in the form of the “My SAC Journey” mobile app.

The app enables first-year students to track milestones throughout the colllege career, such as credit hours taken or certifications received.

“We don’t take enough time to reflect on our journey,” Macal-Polasek said, adding the app will encourage students to be proud of their academic accomplishments.

A dedicated webpage for first-generation students also will be announced this week, as well as dedicated programming for first-year students starting spring 2021.

The webpage will provide access to workshops, tools and other resources created specifically to assist first-generation students in their first year of college.

Finally on Nov. 8, first-generation students are encouraged to share their stories of triumph and support for one another.

These are the Zoom links for each event throughout the week.

First Gen Kickoff Nov. 2: https://alamo.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_wHlzeHawTB2Un5hhIkUJJQ

First Gen Panel Discussion Nov. 4: https://alamo.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Q77mrWf3QtWnEXYKy2cMVw

First Get Drive Thru Nov. 5 :

https://alamo.campuslabs.com/engage/event/6578485

First Gen Social Nov. 8:

 https://www.youtube.com/user/SACofficialvideo

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