First generation support group guides female students through college process


Nicole Herzog

On May 3, the group celebrated their last official meeting in the CCC with doughnuts.

By Nicole Herzog, Assistant Editor

Upon stepping into Room 135, or more commonly referred to as the College and Career Center, (CCC), one is immediately faced with limitless resources for information on all things related to college. The large room, adorned with a myriad of flags belonging to a multitude of different universities, is often regarded as a quiet place in which one can research colleges and speak with counselors about college related topics.

Recently, however, the CCC has become a place not only designated for self-directed college based research, but also for providing support and guidance to students through different types of activities designed to relieve stress, such as yoga.

Inspired by the recent support groups hosted in the CCC, counseling interns Ms. Immen and Ms. Jones became interested in starting a group of their own.

“We wanted to create some sort of group; we knew there was a large population of first generation students here at Lane, and then I thought of the idea of making it all girls just to make it unique and something different,” Immen said.

According to University Business Magazine, “Thirty percent of higher ed students today are the first in their family to attend college, while 24 percent — 4.5 million — are both first-generation and low-income.”

Due to the high demand of students that were interested in joining the group, Immen said that the interns created two groups of twelve students to meet their needs.

The groups, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, sought to provide first generation students, specifically female juniors, with the information necessary to understand the college process and promote success in their application endeavors.

While the groups discussed general college topics, such as financial aid, scholarships, and how to apply for college, they also engaged in conversation about subjects that are specific to first generation students.

“We discussed some of the unique challenges that first generation students face and how they can utilize that to strengthen their application,” Jones said. “And how those factors are like a driving force for a lot of students to want to go to college.”

Elizabeth Palumbo, Div. 961, said that she joined the group in order to learn more about such topics, as well as to receive advice about applying to different schools.

“My parents didn’t go to college, so they don’t really understand the process,” Palumbo said. “So for me, I needed a lot of help to try and decipher what colleges were saying, and what to put on my college apps.”

Aside from being a source to obtain information, the group became a place for students to express their feelings about the college process and explain why they were interested in attending college.

“In a lot of our first group [meeting], we kind of just touched base and saw what their thoughts about college were, why they wanted to go to college, what their family thought, and a lot of them expressed that they want to make their family proud,” Jones said.

The aspect of an all-female group additionally played a role in the conversations the group held, essentially allowing them to express their feelings more openly.

“With it being just girls, especially at the first meeting, I think the girls felt a little more comfortable being vulnerable,” Jones said. “Not to say that they wouldn’t around other students, but I think a lot of them also knew each other, so they were already kind of friends, and they felt comfortable being vulnerable; but it also just presents a different dynamic.”

While Jones and Immen expressed that they would not be opposed to creating a separate group for other students in the future, this particular group was deemed a success by the counselors because the girls were able to share their similar challenges and struggles that come withbeing a first generation female student.

For instance, Jones said many girls in the group expressed that they have the responsibility of taking care of their siblings at home as well as managing their schoolwork at the same time.

“They know what that feels like, what that role is like, and then boys have a different role in the home,” Jones said. “So [having an all girls group] just kind of allowed for them to be more open with their responsibilities at home, and how stressful that can be.”

Gissell Montoya, Div. 983, a participant in the group, expressed a similar sentiment about the bond shared between the girls.

“I think my favorite part was when we shared the reasons why we wanted to go to college, because a lot of them were just so similar, and it did get emotional, so I know that other people felt the same way as I did,” Montoya said.

According to Montoya and Palumbo, the group was very effective and allowed the students to gain a better perspective about the college process.

“I thought it was super helpful,” Palumbo said. “I don’t know if I would be able to completely understand the college process if I didn’t get the help there.”