The Academic and Student Affairs departments co-hosted a pilot “First-Gen Conference,” followed by a panel discussion, at the University Student Union Beach Auditorium, Thursday.
The service departments decided to host the inaugural event because National First-Generation College Student day has never been celebrated at Long Beach State.
“[We’re] hoping that this will be a kick-off event for students who identify as first-gen,” said Nancy San Luis, assistant director of the TRiO Student Support Services program here at CSULB.
The conference began with distributions of free sandwiches and #IAmFirstGen pins and stickers.
“[I’m here] to hear other people’s stories, see how they became successful and overcame their obstacles,” said Kathy Carranza, a fourth-year human development major.
Carranza’s friend, Jennifer Zamudio, a fifth-year psychology major, commented that she would like to see more awareness of first-gen students on campus.
Kerry Klima, the event’s moderator, lead the conference by introducing the six panel members made up of faculty, staff and students.
“Your stories and your experiences are the most important thing we want to be highlighting today,” Klima said when addressing the audience of around 30.
The discussion panel shared advice for dealing with the stress that comes with being a first-gen student and finding a balance between school, work and being involved in the community.
Each panelist answered questions that they had the best advice for and stated what works best for them in relatable difficulties.
“Having a strong support system is so important,” said David Ramirez, a transfer student from Cerritos College and a panelist at the event. “It’s not easy being a first-gen student, it’s hard for a reason.”
Laqueita Owens, EOP student and panelist reminded attendees that, “It’s always okay to ask for help,” She continued by saying that students also have to remember to address the things that aren’t on the surface level, like mental health.
“Stay the course,” said Alaine Ocampo an assistant professor who represented the faculty on the panel. “We need you, we’re here for you.”
After the panel discussion, students were invited to visit the resource fair being held outside of the auditorium. Information tables from a variety of organizations and departments on campus, like Cal-SOAP and Project OCEAN, were present.
Students were also encouraged to participate by posting a sticky note on a poster with what being a first-gen means to them.
“It’s nice to get our voices heard,” said Aniyiah Gantt, a first-year business major. “[It’s] nice to get appreciated.”