By Grace Apostol
On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Assistant Professor of Education, Director of the Museum, Field, and Community Education program at Washington College Dr. Sara Clarke-De Reza sent a school-wide email regarding a new interest club for first generation college students.
Within the email, there is information regarding a meeting that would be occurring Monday, Oct. 3 in Goldstein Hall 100 beginning at 6 p.m.
According to the email, this interest meeting was for students who are “interested in helping us start an organization to support first gen student success.”
Within the meeting they had planned to have discussions of needs of first generation students and making ideas for events for the success of these students.
In charge of this interest group is Senior Alexandra Solano Guante and her academic supporter Dr. Clarke-De Reza.
The purpose of the meeting, according to Dr. Clarke-De Reza was to gauge “whether there is enough interest from first generation college students at WAC to establish a club.”
Dr. Clarke De-Reza and Solano Guante also want first generation students to interact with one another and share their stories.
“We want people to meet one another, and to share their perspectives on the kinds of things an organization designed to support first gen students would need to do to be successful,” Dr. Clarke De-Reza said.
According to Dr. Clarke De-Reza, Solano Guante felt that the College needed a system of support for the first generation college students.
“She approached me, a fellow first-generation student, to help her get something established that could be sustained after she graduates in May,” she said regarding how the interest came to be.
Solano Guante also shared that she had friends at other schools who had a support system as first generation Students.
“Being first gen at a college, regardless of where you go, is a scary thing,” she said. “Other colleges that my friends have gone to have a program designated for first gen students to establish their college years. I think it’s time that WC has a program or a club similar to those programs.”
The College’s website has a page dedicated to first generation students, where they can find resources and outlets during their college experience.
“Being first generation is a very proud accomplishment,” the page said. “We recognize that you will face unique experiences as you begin this exciting journey, and we look forward to supporting you.”
Dr. Clarke De-Reza said she had a mentor in college and wants to use the privilege given to her from higher education to do the same for others regarding being a first generation student herself.
“I hope that students look around and feel seen, represented, and understood for their unique position in our college community,” she said.
Solano Guante shared these sentiments. “I hope that these feelings of loneliness and loss can come to an ease from these students and they really get a sense of belonging and community at WC,” she said. “I hope students can feel a community here at WC and can foster ideas to help one another as they go through their semesters.
Solano Guante, who is also a first generation student, finds the process of being the first in her family to be a struggle.
“I was born in the Dominican Republic and my parents changed their entire lives for my siblings to be able to obtain a good life in America,” she said. “I’m one of the first in my family to get a college degree and the process to get to where I am now is a struggle.”
First generation representation is a factor to the College community. “The small size can make navigating new systems, and building close, supportive relationships, easier,” Dr. Clarke-De Reza said. “That being said, I think we can do better and provide more support for students who, by joining our community, take the huge step towards becoming first in their family to graduate from college.”
For more information, or if a student could not attend the interest meeting, contact Dr. Clarke-De Reza at clarkederze2 or Alex Solano Guante at asolanoguante2.