Cheyanne Ganpat is a first generation college student and a freshman biology major. She must face the challenges that arise with no one in her family having experienced them before.
Ganpat’s parents, originally from Guyana, a small country in South America, did not get a college education.
“It’s something my parents always wanted for me and I’ve always wanted for myself,” Ganpat said.
Nelson Mercado, a freshman criminal justice major, found himself in a similar situation.
Mercado’s mother, Elizabeth’s parents did not emphasize going to school enough when she was growing up.
“My sister and I did not have that push, so not having that motivation come from your parents, it kind of also took you off track,” she said.
When Elizabeth found out her son wanted to go to school and major in criminal justice, a passion of his, she was beyond excited.
Both Mercado and Ganpat decided to join a new program over the summer called Gen 1 when they came to Seton Hall.
Gen 1 is a newly formed summer program that focuses on the successful transition into college life for first generation students.
After seeing her son get involved in a summer program focused on first generation students, Elizabeth said everything felt right.
“I could tell in his eyes and his smile that he enjoyed it and how much he enjoyed meeting new people, teachers, and staff, it was very wonderful,” she said.
Robin Cunningham, dean of Freshman Studies and Academic Programs, Nicole Battaglia, director of First Year Initiatives, and Brandon Larmore, director of the Academic Resource Center, worked together to create this 10-day summer program.
“The program is a natural evolution of Seton Hall’s mission,” Cunningham said.
From the directors of the program, to the peer advisors, academic coaches, and guest speakers, all are first generation students.
“We wanted to have a specialized program to highlight them and make sure that they adjusted to the university smoothly,” Cunningham said of the Gen 1 students. “To pay attention to the students who might need a little more academic help and need attention to their financial situation.”
Since many advisors, professors and alumni resonate with Gen 1’s mission, the hours of work put into the program sends first generation students a message of compassion and understanding.
“We understood what it was like to be a first [generation] student and we wanted to be able to develop a program that would really help answer some of the questions that these first generation students have that maybe weren’t being answered right away,” Battaglia said.
Students took part in panels with guest speakers including Omayra Arocho, assistant dean of College Engagement and Community Development at SHU. They also took a day trip to see a Broadway show, did a scavenger hunt and got involved in community service projects. Gen 1 offered a number of resources for these students as a way to ease and prepare them for their transition into college life.
Ruben Antunez, a peer advisor for Gen 1, faced similar challenges many first generation students experience. Since being an active leader in Gen 1, he said he is grateful to be able to connect with other first generation students and stand as a role model for them.
“Sometimes all you want as an incoming student [is] to know that somebody else has been through the same thing as you,” Battaglia said.
Battaglia and Cunningham said they hope Gen 1 will grow and reach even more first generation students who seek understanding and guidance in the near future.
Marianne-Grace Datu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.