SU Recognizes First-Generation College Students
By Alex Malanoski
SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The Office of First-Year and Transfer Programs held a reception this week to recognize the accomplishments of first-generation college students.
This event held at the Schine Student Center celebrated students with bowling, cookies and cupcakes as a part of First-Generation Student Appreciation Week at SU. While he enjoyed eating desserts and playing lawn games, Mamadou Samba, a freshman and first-generation college student, said he is most grateful for the opportunity to have in-person conversations with like-minded students.
“To me this event is supposed to be a way to meet other first-generation students and to feel that connection I’ve been missing for all this time,” Samba said.
It can be easy for first-generation students to feel isolated as they attempt to navigate an environment their parents are not familiar with. Jasper Wojtach, a graduate student interning for first-year and transfer programs, said the population of first-generation students is much larger than people think.
“When you look at the numbers nationally, I believe 56% of students in the U.S. are first generation,” Wojtach said. “It’s this huge community of people who are all kind of confused and all figuring out what they’re doing, but none of them exactly know that they’re even a part of this community.”
Wojtach said the phrase first-generation student does not solely include students with parents who did not complete higher education. She said she sees it as more of an umbrella term that should be expansive and welcoming rather than exclusive. As a first-generation college student herself, Wojtach said she knows just how crucial it is to find a group of friends that can relate to the unique struggles that come with the college experience.
“Each of us had our own individual moment at one point or another where we had a breakdown,” Wojtach said. “But because we all kind of understood what it was all about we could talk each other down and say ‘I know that you’re competent, I know that you’re capable of doing this and I’m not letting you give up on yourself.’ Having those anchors can be so foundational and life-changing.”