BUCKHANNON – The halls of Benedum Campus Center at West Virginia’s Wesleyan College were filled with posters made by first generation college students Thursday. The celebration honored college students who are the first in their family to attend college. While Nov. 8 was the official holiday, the first generation mentor Kristin Ring said they celebrated all week.
“So today is the National First Gen Student Celebration Day but I just got a little excited and decided to do a week full of events,” Ring said Thursday.
On Monday, the group watched a documentary on first generation students and afterwards they had a panel of first generation students and staff members on campus. Tuesday they did a lunch for the faculty so first generation teachers and students could get to know each other and on Wednesday they did a workshop on imposter syndrome.
“Imposter syndrome is kind of that voice in the back of your head saying, maybe I don't belong here, or I don't fit in, or am I really smart enough to be here and fit in with all these other people,” Ring said. “You see that a lot with first gen students.”
On Friday, first generation students got together and made posters and were given postcards they could write. Ring said the group does regular activities throughout the year as well.
“We have peer mentoring programs, advising programs and then we like to do stuff like this or game nights and things like that just to kind of help create a sense of community here on campus,” Ring said.
She said first generation students at Wesleyan make up about 25 percent of the student population and she wanted to give them a way to connect with each other.
“First gen students are among the most likely student population to drop out of college and so we want to make sure that they have a solid support system in place and that they have kind of a home away from home on campus and I think that our programs try to do a good job of doing that,” she said.
Miranda Farmer, a junior at Wesleyan majoring in psychology with an education minor, has been involved with the program since she arrived on campus.
“I lived in the building where the first generation community house is so I had a mentor my freshman year and then my sophomore year became a mentor and I had mentees,” Farmer said.
Farmer said her parents inspired her to go to college.
“I was raised in such a supportive environment, but neither one of my parents went to school. They have jobs and they were working all the time,” Farmer said. “They kind of pushed me just to see, and said you need to go and try to make a better life for yourself.”
Sophomore accounting major and English minor Caleigh Pittman said her mother encouraged her to go to college.
“My mom just doesn't want me to have to struggle the way she did when we were younger,” Pittman said.
“Now she's finally at the age of 50 getting to live out her dream of having a good job so she wants us to start up earlier than she did.”
The group created an Instagram page called WVWC First Gen where they talk about some of their first gen students and events they organize.