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First-Generation Students Highlighted During First-Generation Awareness Week

There’s a common misconception about first-generation college students. It’s that they lack motivation, which means they struggle to succeed. But Paige Coleman, a first-generation student at Loyola Marymount University, says that misconception couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I’m even more motivated because I’ve had to overcome a lot just to be at LMU,” said Coleman, a sociology major and a transfer student from Cal State East Bay. “I didn’t have the support from family and friends that other students might have had, but that pushed me to work harder to do what is best for me.”

The First to Go program, an academic resource at LMU, is highlighting Coleman’s story along with the stories of other first-generation students, faculty and staff during First-Generation Awareness Week on April 13 – 18. The week-long event will feature several activities including a student debate, a café showcasing visual and multimedia works and the screening of “Against the Grain,” a film about a first-generation student who attends an elite university.  

Coleman will be participating in Mosaic, an event where members of the LMU community can sit down with a first-generation student, faculty or staff and listen to their story and ask questions about their experience. Each participant will display a quote next to them that best describes their personal story. Coleman chose “Started from the bottom, now I’m here,” based on lyrics from a Drake song. 

“I feel like I really did start from the bottom,” Coleman said. “I didn’t have a lot of resources, but I’m here at LMU. Everyone has been so helpful, and I’ve learned that it’s okay to ask for help.”

La’Tonya Rease Miles, director of the Academic Resource Center and the First to Go program, said that about 22 percent of freshman and 30 percent of transfer students are first-generation college students.  She hopes that the week will show the diversity of the first-generation student population at LMU and challenge any prevailing stereotypes.

“First-generation students are very prideful, highly motivated and add a lot to a campus community,” Rease Miles said. “We really appreciate LMU’s commitment to first-generation students. I’ve haven’t seen this type of support at other institutions.”

For more info about the First to Go program at LMU, go to http://academics.lmu.edu/arc/programswesupport/firsttogocommunity/