Proud to Be First

American University News

AU students attending AL1GN conferenceWithout anyone in their immediate family to turn to for guidance on navigating college, the traditional uneasiness that students may feel leaving home for the first time can be amplified for first-generation students. Many first-gen students experience this feeling starting with the college application process. “I had no idea what I was doing,” freshman international studies major Kimberly Rodriguez said. “FAFSA? I had no idea. And even just colleges in general, with trying to figure out which school would be a perfect fit.”
First-generation college students often must work harder to understand processes and the college experience. “With this identity comes a ‘just figure it out’ mentality,” sophomore international studies major Yamai Jack said. “My parents aren’t able to coach me through my college years in terms of building community, where to go for academic, financial assistance, etc.”

Finding Support
Nearly 15% of this past fall’s freshman class are first generation. With a growing number of students arriving as first generation, AU is continually working to find the best ways to support their needs.
“It is critical that we embrace the narrative of first-generation students, as one of achievement, success and grit,”
Center for Diversity & Inclusion (CDI) Senior Director Tiffany Speaks said. “A deficit model fails to tell the good news story of our resilient and tenacious AU students.”
CDI offers first-generation students a friendly space to express themselves and share their experiences through advising and educational programming. Along with the one-on-one support, workshops like
“Paving the Way: Working with First-Generation College Students” have been beneficial for first-generation students to share their stories, and for the AU community to learn how to work better to support those students.
“The workshop provides national and AU-specific data on first-gens and how to support students with that identity,” CDI coordinator for Multicultural and First-Generation Programs Camille Clark said. “In …

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