Initiative brings programs to first-generation students

Raquel Logan, Contributing Writer


Students who are the first in their families to go to college can sometimes face different challenges than other students.

Danielle Gawlik, a senior first-generation college student, said she was a little intimidated about university life because she did not initially know what to expect.

“I was able to figure it out. (It was) nothing I knew I couldn’t handle,” she said.

At Eastern, an initiative called Making Excellence Inclusive is bringing new programs to help first-generation college students.

According to its webpage, the initiative is designed to explore how colleges and universities can use the resources of diversity to achieve academic excellence for all students.

Making Excellence Inclusive will allow first-generation college students to meet other students who are experiencing similar situations.

MEI has already started a social media presence and are developing a website with the faces of first-generation students on campus.

First-generation college students will also have a chance to connect and build relationships with mentors who have been set in place.

Catherine Polydore, chair of Making Excellence Inclusive, said it is the group’s hope that first-generation students will be less concerned about their own ability to be successful if they can identify others who have taken the same journey and overcome the same challenges.

Being a first-generation college student does not mean students cannot be successful, Polydore said.

However, she said empirical research suggests that when compared to peers with family members who have gone to college, first-generation students are about twice as likely to drop-out.

They are also more likely to get lower grades, face a difficult transition and worry more about whether or not they belong in college, Polydore added.

“We at Making Excellence Inclusive are aware of those statistics and would like to do what we can to reverse or minimize those challenges,” Polydore said.

Gawlik said some students may go through a phase of feeling guilty because they are attending college, something that their parents were not able to do.

“At times I felt bad because I didn’t want to offend my mom or say things like ‘You don’t know what I’m talking about because you didn’t go to college,’” Gawlik said.

Italia Mendez, a senior health administration major, said she does not feel bad that her parents did not complete college because she knows they had good reason.

“They’re proud of me for actually staying and completing my major, so that’s better than whatever mistakes they made,” Mendez said.


Raquel Logan at 581-2812 or [email protected].