Allegheny showcases first-generation, low-income student group

FiGli and IDEAS Center come together to start the ‘We’re First’ initative on campus

As young adults enter college, some think back to the outrageous or gratuitous stories their parents have told over dinner tables or casual barbeques, of the classes, friends and activities they participated in, reminiscing on the good ole’ days. Others will contemplate what is actually in store for them at college and how exactly they can pay for their own experience and for many who do come to college with no previous knowledge acquired from parents or relatives, they usually don’t find the help they need.

At Allegheny, the First Generation and/or Low-Income is the guiding hand for students who are the first in their family to enter a four year degree program or come from an low-income family. FiGLI aims to help first-generation or low-income students in navigating college, and being a platform to help connect students with faculty, staff and alumni who have had similar experiences.

FiGLI held their first lunch meeting Aug. 5, 2017 at the Tippie Alumni Center, introducing the founder and co-president of FiGLI, Winly Mai, ‘18, and co-president Robyn Katona,‘19, and faculty and staff that were first -generations students themselves. They also introduced the We’re First Initiative, which aims to show there are first-generation students, staff and faculty at Allegheny. FiGLI and the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice Center included yellow elastic wristbands with ‘Allegheny College We’re First’ at the meeting, but they are also available on the third floor of the campus center at the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice Center.

A point of this meeting was to have the incoming first-generation or low-income freshmen and returning students appear and know that they are not alone at college. Allegheny itself has many students, faculty and staff that are first-generation students or came from a low-income family.

“The Administrative Executive Committee includes more than fifty percent of people who had been first generation.” said justin adkins, associate dean of the IDEAS Center.

Eileen Petula, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Allegheny College, gave her own advice to the group of students and staff gathered. Petula was a first-generation student as well, from a family of eleven, who didn’t believe college was something she would undertake. However through the persistence of a guidance counselor, she was accepted into college and began her journey as a first-generation student. 

“Don’t be afraid to dream big. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself,” said Petula.

It’s not widely spoken about on campus or in regular conversation that people are first-generation students, but FiGLI aims to change that. It’s obvious through the meeting that a goal of FiGLI and the IDEAS Center is to help shed light on the difficulties that first-generation students deal with and the solutions for them.

With the assistance of faculty and staff, FiGLI hopes to provide support and mentorship to the first-generation students of Allegheny, and to help them navigate their way through college and it’s inner workings, according to Co-President Winly Mai ‘18.

Most of all, FiGLI and the staff hope to learn from each other, in a way that mentorship goes both ways, learning from both mentee and mentor. In their words, everyone has some specific knowledge that another might not have, and learning from each other helps them connect to one another in unique ways.