First Gen Fellows, a registered student organization, opened their doors Sept. 18 for their inaugural year. The program offers support to UW Tacoma students who are the first in their family to attend higher education.
Sixty-four percent of UWT freshman identify as first generation students. Being a first generation student at a university is a celebrated accomplishment, and First Gen Fellows believes that navigating through the higher education journey should not be done without assistance. With over half of UWT freshman students being first generation, an organization such as First Gen Fellows was needed.
UW Tacoma has had Rather, First Gen Fellows is the first registered student organization to be funded with the Student Activities Fee — something that each registered UWT student pays with tuition.
James Da, First Gen Fellows leadership development coordinator and UW Tacoma junior, believes that support for first generation students is a necessity.
“I am a first-generation student that started my college journey at Washington State University after spending 15 years in Germany as a military child. It was at WSU where I learned the importance of retention for students who share my first-generation identity,” Da said. “Today, I am pioneering First Gen Fellows with a main goal to support students, first-gen or not, successfully transition into college because of the privileged experience I had at my prior college.”
One of the prior experiences Da was inspired by is WSU’s offering access to The Federal TRIO Programs, which are dedicated specifically to first generation students and their on-campus success.
“I hope that University of Washington Tacoma will one day be able to adopt a program like TRIO so that first-generations students no longer have to advocate for themselves and instead are able to solely focus on their academics,” Da said.
Students are encouraged to walk into the First Gen Fellows office — located in Mattress Factory room 103 — to speak to Da, First Gen Fellows Advisor, Kristi Soriano-Noceda, M.Ed. or Diana Algomeda-Villada, the other officer. In addition to the two officers, there are currently four other student volunteers of the registered student organization, all six of which are first generation students themselves.
“We are student led, student driven, and student funded,” Da said.
Students interested in the program will be supported by First Gen Fellows directly, and the many services they offer. The focus of First Gen Fellows is to empower the transition of students into university — first generation or not. This will be accomplished through three phases throughout the year.
The first phase of the program — spanning autumn quarter — surrounds the idea of language. This includes basic information to new students, such as college terminology and the ins and outs of the UW Tacoma campus.
Through workshops and one-on-one guidance, the program is also assisting students with time management and organizing. First Gen Fellows teamed up with Passion Planner — a day planner company — who donated 100 planners to the program to be given to students.
The second phase is all about empowerment. This is the time of the year where the First Gen Fellows will work to motivate students with various speakers during lulls within the year.
The final phase revolves around leadership. With this phase, students will be encouraged to get involved on campus, whether that be joining a club or going to events.
With each phase in the year, the program will seek to reach out to each student who joins the organization nine different times. The purpose of this is to make students feel as though they have a place where they belong and a program to specifically support them throughout the school year.