Program helps First Generation students adjust

First Gen students share their expectations, experiences and struggles with the scholarship program.


Courtesy of Leon Harris

Julianna Hernandez, Writer

This year is the first year that first generation students lived in cohorts or all on the same hall. With the year coming to a close, the program participants reflect on its success.

While the FirstGen program is classified as a scholarship program, it is much more than that, especially to the students. The program starts in the summer with workshops and field trips, and continues into the year with helpful resources and insight for the students. Most importantly, the FirstGen program provides community for first-time college students. The program is full of bright and motivated students who appreciate the positive outcomes of the program.

Many students in the program did not know what to expect coming into it. Freshman cinema media arts major Jeli Villeza shared that though  she did not know what to expect, but is pleased with the outcome of the program.

“I honestly just thought that they were going to be a series of workshops,” Villeza said. “I didn’t really expect us to bond and become really close and build community.”

Living Arrangements

Some of the students shared their feelings about living in a hall primarily composed of FirstGen students. Freshman elementary education major Leslie De Quiroz shared that the camaraderie on the floor remains important to her.

“It’s really encouraging to be around other FirstGen students,” De Quiroz said. “A lot of these girls come from similar backgrounds as me, so it is really nice to have a support group.”

Villeza believes the cohort-style living ensures strong community.

“Its great because you have a great community, so whenever we see each other out on the hall or in the elbow lounges — it is always a great time, and we always say hi,” Villeza said. “It’s also this sort of family feeling,”

Resources of First Gen

The FirstGen progam provides their students with the resources necessary to succeed in and after college. First, the program informs the students of the resources available on campus. Second, they also hold resume and interview workshops. Third, the FirstGen program also offers a summer-bridge program where the assistant professor at Talbot School of Theology Leon Harris introduces Bible terminology and class content to the students. The idea for this part of the program came from the Multi-Ethnic Student Success and Inclusion committee led by director of Student Enrichment and Intercultural Development Tamra Malone and dean of Student Success Carrie Stockton.

“What I really love is that the people in charge of FirstGen provide all of us with a lot of resources, and I don’t think I would have been as knowledgeable about these resources if they hadn’t told me,” De Quiroz said.

As for Bible courses, Harris shared that they can be the hardest classes for an incoming freshman. Harris shared how he helped FirstGen students adjust to these classes.

“I was able to help them understand and appreciate the biblical foundation,” Harris said. “I was able to interact, incorporate and absorb what is is to be a Bible minor here. I think that made it a lot easier for them.”

Harris explained that he was also a first generation college student, so he was able to relate to the students better. He also believes that the FirstGen program allows Biola to act out the Christian mandate.

“I was an inner city FirstGen student,” Harris said. “There’s some things we just don’t know, and I think it’s important for us as a university to show proper Christian stewardship — that we are reaching out and helping those who would not receive this special assistance.”

Benefits of being a First Gen Student and in the Program

FirstGen tries to help its students as much as possible. They introduced the students to the faculty and gave them a tour around campus. The program answered the questions any FirstGen student had about any topic related to college, including financial aid.  The leaders even helped in the on-campus job process.

Additionally, the program also enables students to learn about others and their cultures. Many students in the program come from different backgrounds. By being in the program, students are exposed to cultural diversity.

“You get to work with a diverse group of people, and you get to learn other people’s cultures,” Villeza said.

Villeza shared a little on the motivation of the students in the program.

“Our parents didn’t go to college, that sort of incentivizes us to work harder and accomplish a lot more things in college,” Villeza said. “We tend to prioritize our academics more, and we’re more hardworking.”

Other FirstGen students agree with Villeza. Most remain appreciative of the resources given to them as well as the community in the dormitories and in general. The FirstGen program and cohort system proves to be a success from the praise of its members.

To celebrate their successful year, the First Gen program will host a dinner party on May 20.

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