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First-generation students recognized at banner signing

Ryan O'Connell / THE GATEPOST

By Ryan O’Connell

Arts & Features Editor

GenerationOne occupied a table in the McCarthy Center’s lobby with two banners showcasing student and staff support through signatures Nov. 8.

GenerationOne is an affinity group focused on first-generation students, connecting them to first-generation faculty and offering them support.

The table was set up to show first-generation students that an organization on campus exists specifically for them, and that the group is committed to their success.

In March 2021, Framingham State University received a “First Gen-Forward” designation by the Center for First-generation Student Success - becoming one of 270 institutions recognized for committing to improving the experiences of first-generation students.

According to the University’s Office of Institutional Research, the percentage of first-generation non-transfer students enrolled in an undergraduate degree for the Fall 2021 semester was 51%. The statistics for 2022 are not publicly available.

Alexandra Hebert, a senior psychology major, said she describes herself as a first-generation student. She said she understood first-generation students as students who were the first in their family to pursue a degree higher than an associate’s.

Hebert said she chose to enroll in college to better help her chances of getting a job, and to further educate herself. She added college was always emphasized when she was in primary and secondary school, and felt it was the next step for her.

She said she thought FSU provided enough support for first-generation students, and thought requirements for the University were usually well documented and self explanatory. Hebert said the Rams 101 course also helped her to understand what was expected of her as a student.

She added the community was a big help in adjusting to college life. “Other peers, my RAs my first year here, professors and just staff in general, I feel like they’re all pretty welcoming and there to answer questions and help guide you.”

Evelyn Campbell, a sophomore marketing major, said neither of her parents attended college, but she had always wanted to earn a degree.

“Honestly, it was a no-brainer for me. I kind of just always loved school. … I’ve always fantasized about going to college,” she said.

Campbell added as an honors student, she takes her education very seriously and feels college can provide young people with an array of opportunities. “I just feel like there’s such a benefit in learning that you won’t get otherwise.”

She said she couldn’t remember many challenges she’s faced at FSU due to being a first-generation student, and added she thought the University did a good job providing support networks for students who were the first in their families to attend college.

Campbell said FSU wasn’t initially her first-choice school, but she feels confident in the decision she made.

“I planned on going to a different college, but it just didn’t end up working out. I wasn’t getting the support I needed from them, so FSU was my backup school,” she said. “It doesn’t feel like my backup school anymore. I really made this place my home.”

Campbell said she “couldn’t imagine not being here,” and attributed her success to the number of opportunities she’s been offered at the University.

She added although she thinks FSU does a good job of supporting first-generation students, it could do more to help educate parents on the institution’s expectations and requirements.

Samantha Medeiros, a junior hospitality and tourism major, said being first-generation is both something to be proud of and a challenge. “It’s kind of like an accomplishment for my family, in a way,” she said.

“It’s also really difficult to figure things out on my own, so having help on campus is really important,” she said.

Medeiros said she didn’t think of attending college until high school, when a teacher introduced the idea of higher education to her.

“My high school teacher actually … told me what college was. Since my family never even graduated high school, I didn’t really know, and she opened up many opportunities for me, so I’m really grateful for her,” she said.

She said although sometimes navigating the campus and completing paperwork is confusing, the University’s resources have been very helpful to her.

“CASA is really good with helping. I actually work in the office as a mentor myself, so I’ve kind of felt like I wanted to give back since I’ve gotten so much help from the school,” she said.

Medeiros added she believed the University does a good job of supporting first-generation students already, but didn’t know about GenerationOne before the fair, and thinks they should advertise it more.

Matthew Brady, a freshman history major, said he considers himself a first-generation student.

Brady said he’s adopted, and although his adoptive parents both have degrees, his birth parents do not. “My parents who adopted me - they actually both went here, which is the reason that I’m here.”

He added in the past, he didn’t think he’d end up in college, but was happy he was wrong.

“Three years ago, you could tell me I would be at college and I would laugh in your face. I never thought I would be, but I’m very happy I’m here,” he said.

Brady said he only decided to enroll thanks to a friend - he said he saw the work his friend was doing, and knew he could handle it, but didn’t enroll until he saw all the facilities the school had to offer.

“He took me here one day to go play basketball in the gym, and I saw the workout room, saw the library, I saw the dining hall, I saw McCarthy - I saw everything and I was like, ‘There’s no way this place is real,’” he said.

He added he was currently in dual enrollment with the Navy, and wanted to earn his bachelor’s and potentially master’s degree.

“I want to gain the most education I can. I want to take a lot of classes. You know, I’m paying to be here, so I want to do well,” he said.

Brady said it wasn’t hard for him to be an independent person, and to accomplish what the school demanded of him, but said sometimes, it’s challenging to balance a personal life with school, as well as remaining independent.

He added while sometimes, he doesn’t feel comfortable asking for help, he knows FSU would be there for him if he ever sought it. “I have so much more support than I ever thought I would have here.

“I love everyone here - this place is family now,” Brady said. “Rams for life!”


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