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Community gathers to celebrate First Generation Day

| Friday, November 6, 2020

The First Gen Club held a celebration Thursday in recognition of First Gen[eration] Day. The event featured guest speaker Kris Arizmendi-Choinacky, a Catholic Latinx woman who is the assistant director of the Office of Civic and Social Engagement (OCSE). A University of Indianapolis alumna, Choinacky was a first-generation college student.

In her speech, she acknowledged the factors that make her a first-generation woman and commemorates first-generation students, faculty and staff of the Saint Mary’s community. She recounted her experience in college as a first-generation student and the struggles and successes she faced in her educational and professional careers.

Following Choinacky’s speech about family, internal issues and higher education, some stayed to mingle. There were other first-generation professors, staff and students at the event who were able to interact with one another.

President of the First Gen club, junior Damariz Olguin spoke to her decision to run for the position and what the club means to her.

“As a first-gen student, I want to help other students, having gone through and still living through the struggles many first-gen students face, such as filling out FAFSA and asking for help,” she said. “I applied to be part of the first-gen board because I found it interesting how the club came to start. Last year’s president was talking to current vice president of student affairs Gloria Jenkins, and asked why there was no established First Gen club. I understood then the importance of having the club.” 

Olguin then spoke to the challenges faced by first generation students.

“There are many challenges, and there will keep being many challenges, and if I can encourage other students and give advice as a junior having gotten through these past years as a first-year at Saint Mary’s, I am more than happy to. It is something I enjoy and something I hope to keep doing during my time here,” Olguin said.

She spoke to the challenges she faced being the first in her family to attend college, specifically filling out forms.

“As a first-gen student, you will always face challenges, a big one for me, and what I’ve noticed for many too is FAFSA,” Olguin said. “You know, it’s so complicated when you have to not only do it yourself but also encourage your parents to hand over their tax returns to you.”

While there are difficulties she faces, Olguin said there are many organizations on campus that support first-generation students.

“One that comes straight to mind is the student diversity board,” she said. ”They are a great resource for all students, and I remember joining early on and feeling a sense of family and unity that I needed as a first-year. I know can be greatly helpful for any student. I urge students to seek these resources, especially first-gen as we try to help first-year students as best as possible.”

For sophomore club secretary Alok Agwick, the First Gen Club is key to creating a community during times of uncertainty. 

“We must get together to celebrate and embrace one another because many students don’t necessarily have that support at home, and it is something we as first-gen students aren’t used to,” Agwick said. “We are each other’s resources, our stories are resources, and if we come together, we will get through the difficulties to achieve success.”

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