First-generation student founds first-generation club
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Third-year student Senaida Hernandez is the founding president of I'm First, the new on-campus club for first-generation students attending Westmont. Hernandez will be the first in her family to graduate from college.
First-generation students are students who do not have at least one parent or guardian who has received a four-year degree.
Hernandez has encountered some of the intimidating disadvantages of being a first-generation student. She hopes that the I’m First club can become a place for a diverse culture and support group for first-gen students at Westmont. Hernandez knows first-hand how overwhelming college life can be. Westmont does not offer any programs or support groups for first generation students. She is driven to create a place that can give first-generation students at Westmont knowledge of the necessary steps to take to maintain a successful college life that leads to graduation.
The presence of Westmont’s first-generation students shows up in the demographics of this year’s incoming class. A blog post on Westmont’s official website said in August that nearly 18 percent of the incoming class identifies as the first in their family to attend college.
“It can be difficult for first-generation students to learn how to accurately study, how to approach their professors when they need help, and do all this while facing financial and social challenges,” said Hernandez. Hernandez recalls how things as trivial as calculating her GPA and understanding terms used by the college were all new to her.
“I honestly had unrealistic expectations when I enrolled at Westmont, mainly because neither I nor my family had anything to compare [college life] to.” Hernandez is driven to make the I’m First club’s main mission to assist first-generation students to comprehend and to navigate the unknown obstacles and challenges of college life.
First-generation students can easily become discouraged without the footsteps of a parent or guardian who has successfully completed the process of graduation before them.
Hernandez is well aware that such an endeavor takes persistence and a tremendous amount of support from the community. Hernandez is dedicated to making sure of the success the I’m First”club, so that it becomes a resource to help club members ultimately become successful Westmont graduates.