AU First Generation Student Union Holds First Meeting

Last week, a new club for first generation students at American University held its first meeting. The First Generation Student Union, or AUFGSU,  has been years in the making; President Veronica Pacheco and Vice President Kyla Blazer held interviews for the first E-board this month in preparation for the first meeting. First generation students are students where neither parents or legal guardians attended college.

 

“There were a lot of hardships that came with being first-gen/low income during my first year at AU and it wasn’t until talking with other first-gens that I realized I wasn’t alone in that feeling...I really wanted to be part of the process to creating the organization to make sure I could help current and future first-gens in any way I can,” said Pacheco.

 

This is the first club dedicated to first generation and low income students on campus in American’s history. AUFGSU has goals of connecting students from a similar background that haven’t had a shared space before while also advocating for first generation students on campus. Recently, this included signing a petition as a club supporting unconditional pass/fail grading for all students. The petition was created by the Black Student Union, Black Girls Vote, and NAACP on campus, and it has received support from a variety of campus organizations.

The first meeting for the organization aimed to connect students and provide a space to start building community. Students went into breakout rooms and talked about their experiences at AU to better understand each other and find similarities. “I was super happy about our first meeting...I truly appreciate people coming out to learn more about FGSU,” Pacheco said.

 

 

 

“I joined AUFGSU because when I was a freshman, I felt so out of place being at a school where the majority of people didn’t look like me. I come from a very diverse background and moving to DC and going to AU was difficult in finding people who could relate to me and the experiences I was going through as not only the child of immigrants, but as a first-gen college student,” said junior and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director Mariana Espinoza.

 

Although the first meeting had to be held virtually and events in the future will likely also be online, AUFGSU has many plans. Implementing a mentorship program and holding career preparation events are two priorities. These initatives are planned to help first generation students create a community and a network that they may not have from family or people in their lives. Many students at the meeting shared that it has been difficult to find other students from a similar background on campus which can feel isolating.

 

“I’m really looking forward to dialogues about the first-gen experience, along with meeting more first-gen students through more fun and social events,” said Pacheco.

“I’m most excited to see how AUFGSU will grow into being a unique, intersectional, and welcoming family for first generation students to help them find an incredible support system and create long lasting friendships while in undergrad,” Espinoza said.

 

 

First generation students make up 562 full-time undergraduate students at American - only 7.6%. This is about average for private universities. First generation students nationwide are less likely than continuing generation students to be enrolled full time, complete an advanced-level math course, and depart from college with a credential. This can be due to lower incomes, less support from family, and a lack of community. Being first generation is an identity that can intersect with other identities like race, class, and immigration status.

You can follow the American University First Generation Student Union on Instagram @aufgsu to learn more about the community and the events they are planning. To learn more about being first generation, visit the Center for First Generation Student Success website.

 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Photos: Her Campus Media