Members of the First Generation Club at the University of La Verne sit among each other like family, prepared to share laughs and ideas and is the reason they have been able to support their members for three years.
The First Generation Club is an organization that supports students who are the first in their family to go to college. Their mission is to bring awareness, opportunity and support to their members through meetings, workshops and programs.
The club stemmed three years ago from the Office of Multicultural Services and continues to grow, according to Rosalilia Gradilla, adviser of the club.
According to Gradilla, 40 percent of the traditional undergraduate students on campus are first generation students.
“This is really an opportunity for students to connect with each other, to engage and to really feel a sense of belonging at the university campus,” Gradilla said.
Outside of general meetings on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to noon, the members host academic and social events like workshops and game nights. Those who cannot make it to the meetings are encouraged to be part of the events.
“This is a support group for students who don’t know what they have in reach at the university,” Fabiola Montano, president of the club, said.
Gradilla said first generation students often struggle because they are walking into something new that someone within their close proximity has not experienced before.
Gradilla said various studies have shown that the majority of first generation students come from low income families and are often trying to juggle school and work.
“I would tell a struggling first generation student to join this club, because it is specifically designed for students who come from a family with a lower education,” .Alejandra Mejia, treasurer of the club, said. “Do not give up, because in the end, it’ll be worth it.”
Members of the club feel a sense of support and unity.
“The First Generation Club has offered me so much more than I can express,” Rebekah Reza, director of activities of the club, said. “It is my home, my family, my support and my voice. The club and program has been a major influence on the person I am today.”
“It’s great to learn about people’s different aspects,” Joel Sanchez, historian of the club, said.
The club is closely tied with the First Generation Program. Within the program, members try to expand to community and get parents involved.
Gradilla, who was a first generation student and part of the program while she was a graduate student at ULV, said parents are encouraged to come to parent forums, potluck picnics and receptions so they have the opportunity be engaged just like the students are.
“You can learn how to be an ally and of service to first generation students whether you identify as first generation or not,” Gradilla said.
Members of the club encourage students, even if they are not first generation, to be part of the organization.
Alejandra Aguilar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.