First-Gen Experience brought together students, departments and campus support. But this year's program also included a new component -- parents.
More than 100 students and 39 family members participated in First Gen Experience to learn how to best navigate college life. First generation students make up almost 40 percent of undergraduates at University of North Texas. The First-Generation Success Center works to collaborate with campus partners to design workshops and programs addressing topics such as academic success, career preparation, financial aid and financial literacy, wellness, and engagement.
“The experiences are so unique and based on every student,” said Desiree Padron, director of the First Generation Success Center.
The event kicked off with karaoke to get everyone excited. Students then heard from representatives from groups like ACCESS Peer Mentoring, TRIO Student Success Services and the First-Gen Student Organization about ways to get connected on campus. They learned how to complete their FAFSA or TASFA forms early and how to look for scholarships from the UNT Financial Aid & Scholarships office. And they also heard from UNT’s Career Center to in a discussion about UCAR 1000 seminar course and leveraging Handshake for on-campus jobs.
The crowd-favorite session was the Student Leader Panel where a group of current and former student leaders answer questions about their experiences on campus as a first-generation students. Attendees heard “real talk” from the panelists about what to expect as a freshman and beyond. They talked about their favorite parts of UNT, how to overcome obstacles and gave advice to the next generation of first-generation students.
Parents experienced similar sessions, including a session with UNT’s Counseling and Testing Services. Parents were able to ask questions and learn how best to support their student as they navigate their first year.
At the end of the experience, students completed a reflection activity with the First-Gen Center staff. Students wrote a letter about how they felt and their hopes and goals for the future. The students sealed their letter and a polaroid selfie in an envelope to be opened at the end of their first semester, or at graduation. Parents and family members also wrote a letter to their first-gen student and were instructed to give the letter to their student whenever they most needed encouragement during freshman year at UNT.
First Gen Experience was sponsored by CapitalOne and included the UNT Career Center, Financial Aid & Scholarships, Counseling and Testing Services, UNT Libraries, First Generational Student Organization, ACCESS Mentoring and TRIO Student Support Services. Eighteen staff members from across campus volunteered as lunch leaders or speakers.