First Generation Kickoff celebrates, empowers first-generation college students

London Gibson

Some of the University’s first-generation college students attended the first ever celebration in their honor Sunday night.

Student Government and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement organized the First Generation Kickoff and brought together 55 students to learn about campus opportunities and to be introduced to community members who may be able to help them in their time at UT.

“It is to empower those students who are first-generation college students,” student body president Alejandrina Guzman said. “I don’t want students to feel that they’re alone, that they don’t have resources on campus.”

Political communications freshman Kaylee Caffey said the kickoff night led her to information that will help her start off her time at UT.

“I kind of went into this blind because I was never able to ask my parents about their experiences because they never went to college,” Caffey said. “I think that it’s really important that they’re getting the information out there to people that don’t really have it.”

UT President Gregory Fenves joined in on the festivities and invited the students to his office and adjoining balcony.

Guzman, a Mexican-American studies and government senior, said the idea for holding the event came from a previous mentor and friend who promoted it as part of his platform in the 2016 SG elections. Although her friend wasn’t elected, Guzman said the concept stuck with her.

“I’m a first-generation college student myself, and just the fact that they had it on their platform point meant the world to me,” Guzman said. “I really wanted to see that happen.”

Although geography sophomore Carlos Chavez began his college journey a year ago, he still learned from the event, which was open to all UT students regardless of year. He said that during his time at UT, he has experienced difficulties associated with being a first-generation student.

“I felt like at some points you can maybe feel like you’re going 1,000 miles per hour, and maybe when you reach a point when you might feel disappointed or feel like a failure … maybe your parents might not understand that,” Chavez said.

Chavez said the event was a good way to meet others experiencing similar anxieties about the upcoming year.

At the event, students attended various lectures and sessions directed at helping students become aware of the opportunities available to them on campus.

Theatre and dance freshman Meagan McCrary said she never considered studying abroad to be an option for her until learning about it Sunday night.

“I didn’t think that I could afford it, but they talked about study abroad and how you can get scholarships,” McCrary said. “I’m really excited I can do that.”

Guzman said seeing the night come together was remarkable. She said she hopes the students who attended feel empowered by meeting fellow students and mentors who have experienced similar paths.

“I hope they see that they are the embodiment of excellence, no matter where they come from or what it took to get to campus,” Guzman said. “UT is extremely honored to have them.”