A Place Where First-Generation College Students Shine
“I am First-Gen.” Sure, on the surface, it’s just a t-shirt, emblazoned with one simple phrase. But to thousands of students on campus at Arizona Western College, that message is profound, a reminder that a whopping 66 percent of the college’s 8,000 students are just like them.
Perhaps even more profoundly, almost 40 percent of Arizona Western’s faculty and staff members self-identify as being first-generation students.
Daniel Corr, the college’s president and himself a first-generation student, vowed to create an atmosphere that encouraged proud ownership of the “first gen” label. Students and staff are encouraged to wear the “I Am First Gen” t-shirts, and a special day is dedicated to first generation students every fall, writes Ashley A. Smith for Inside Higher Ed.
Why does recognition and support matter? Because without an at-home support system, many students struggle to navigate the ins and outs of higher education. Struggling to figure out tricky issues like financial aid, registration, and study habits can feel overwhelming to many students attending college for the first time in their family’s history.
“They sometimes don’t have a role model at home. They doubt they truly belong in a college environment. Financial aid is daunting. Registration is daunting,” said Daniel Corr, Arizona Western’s president.
It’s clear this model of support is working: Arizona Western was among national leaders in facilitating social mobility, ranking 17th among all community colleges in social mobility.