First-generation students form friendly club

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First-Generation College Student Organization members (L-R) Mai Yang, Wendy Vang Roberts, and Winnie Nyange plan future events at their club meeting on Feb. 14 in room L118 of Founders Hall. Photo by Scott Lindell


First-generation college students come up against many challenges, but now they have another source of support on campus.

The First-Generation College Student Organization (FGCSO) registered as a new club at Metro State in January.  Members are helping fellow first-generation college students find success in their personal, academic and professional lives.  FGCSO wants to be a venue for students to celebrate their achievements as they move forward to graduation.

“First-generation college students face many obstacles from the admissions process to navigating college life and finding a career,” said Wendy Vang Roberts, president of the FGCSO and a graduate student in the Master of Public and Nonprofit Administration program at Metro State. She hopes the new club can advocate for and provide customized support for first-generation college students.

According to the Multicultural Services office, 70 percent of undergraduates at Metro State are first-generation college students. Because their parents did not attend college, these students most likely come to campus without guidance on how to go to college and start a career after graduation.

“I came to college so my kids don’t struggle the way I do,” said Winnie Nyange, an accounting major and FGCSO treasurer. Nyange remembers the difficulties finding her footing on campus. She eventually found her way by interacting with faculty and asking questions.

“I know the trouble they face. I want to make their college experience easier for them,” said Mai Yang, FGCSO secretary.

The club is planning a “wall of dedication” for Metropolitan State’s first-generation college students. Tom Boylan, FGCSO advisor and a TRIO retention specialist, believes they can use Metro State’s TRIO Student Support Services mural as inspiration for their project.

At a recent club meeting, Boylan showed members the TRIO mural (in Founders Hall L100/L106) and explained its significance. It shows community support for TRIO and recognizes students for their perseverance in pursuing a college education, he said.

The TRIO mural took over a year to complete and includes contributions from over 350 people, including students, administrators, faculty and staff. It was unveiled at last year’s First-Generation College Students Recognition Day on Nov. 8.

FGCSO is working to have their “wall of dedication” installed in the Student Center fireplace lounge by March 1. They are gathering materials and enough glitter to make their mural shine. Students and faculty are invited to write down thoughts and words of encouragement on small notecards. They can also include artwork, drawings, poems, or other creative work.

FGCSO will unveil their “wall of dedication” at their first public event, “Hear Us Roar: First-Generation College Student Experience Panel and Listening Session.” The event will take place on March 15 from 4 to 6 p.m. It will feature a party atmosphere with dinner and music.  

Heather Lou, the new director of Student Life and Leadership Development, will be a guest speaker. Lou will share her experience as a first-generation college student. The event will also include a listening session with students. FGCSO president Roberts said it is a good way for the club to get feedback from the Metro State community.

FGCSO members are organizing several activities in future months. In April, they will host a campus ice cream social. For the 2018 holiday season they are planning a gingerbread house building contest and team-building exercises.

Roberts said they plan to welcome students back to campus with a fall kickoff program and a “warm and fluffy welcome with hot chocolate and marshmallows” event in January. “Not all students start school in fall, some come in spring, and this is a great way to connect with new first-generation college students,” she said.

To help first-generation college students with their career aspirations, the club hopes to collaborate with the Career Center. They envision a volunteer and internship fair targeted to their members.

They have also discussed presenting a “College 101” program to introduce students to all of the facilities at Metro State. “Many students have never been to career services,” said Roberts. FGCSO is working hard to change that.

To join the First-Generation College Student Organization, visit Club members will meet on March 14 and March 28 in room L118 of Founders Hall. Meetings take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.