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First generation students gather to share support

by Tatyana Phelps

First-generation students at VSU no longer have to go through the struggles they face alone.

The counseling center is forming a support group specifically for VSU students who are the first in their family to attend college. The tentative start date was Feb. 16, but the actual start date and time will be based on the participants’ schedules.

First-generation college students particularly struggle a little more than other college students and face more hardships.

“There are some alarming statistics surrounding first-generation college students,” Heidi Duthoy, VSU counselor, said. “A good majority are taking up to six years to finish their undergrad, as opposed to the traditional students (who take) four years. We just know that there are a lot of factors going into that.

“We’re trying to target this group to help keep them on track and develop a good four-year plan.”

Duthoy explained that a major goal of the support group is to make them aware of the available resources on campus, such as advisors, and get them in contact with these resources.

There are many difficulties that first-generation college students face, such as financial resources and lack of knowledge about the available resources on campus.

“A good majority of first-generation students are coming from middle to lower class backgrounds, and they may be struggling (with) pulling financial resources from their family (and a) lack of support, just in a sense that their parents don’t really have a good understanding of what they’re going through on campus,” Duthoy said.

Kwame’ Hodge, senior speech communication major, knows firsthand what it is like to be a first-generation college student and deal with financial struggles.

“I will never regret making the conscious decision to attend college as a first-generation college student,” Hodge said. “However, there were and currently still are so many difficulties that I face daily because of it. Applying for financial aid for the first time was a complete nightmare.

“Because of my lack of knowledge in regards to financial aid, I missed out on attending college the first semester after high school.”

Although he has complete support from his family, as Duthoy said, his family can’t relate to what he is going through.

“I never doubt the love my family has for me…but this experience is one that they cannot relate to or offer advice,” Hodge said.

Hodge was not aware that there was actually a support group forming for first-generation college students.

“I think this is a phenomenal idea,” Hodge said. “If I would have known and had access to a support group geared toward the struggles that I was facing, it would have made all the difference. I would have joined without a second thought.”

For more information on this support group, call 229-333-5940.

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