Cedrica “CJ” Jackson, a senior first-generation student at Eckerd College (FL), founded her campus First-Gen Club. “I’m dedicated to the success of the club because it creates community and resources for a large population of students who have gone unnoticed,” she said. Eckerd also launched a First-Generation Student Initiative in 2019, which includes asking faculty and staff members who were first-generation students to put “First-Gen” stickers on their office doors to let students know their backgrounds.
Efforts like these help students like Heaven Juarez, a first-year Eckerd student from Lawrence Township, New Jersey. “I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to make friends because a lot of people come from backgrounds that are different from mine,” she said. “Because I’m first generation, the hardest part is all the little things I don’t know, like the difference between a 100- and a 200-level class. And I had no idea how to address my professor, and that classrooms [here] don’t look like the giant lecture halls you see in the movies.”
Lisa Miller, Ph.D, an associate professor of sociology at the college, was a first-generation college graduate and helped guide Eckerd’s first-gen efforts. “When I started working on this four years ago,” she explained, “we wanted to help first-generation students identify other students like themselves and models for success. It’s an invisible status. And we wanted to provide support and resources. Creating community for first-gen students helps cultivate a sense of belonging.”
Read more about these efforts at Eckerd College here.