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First Gen professors help USA students

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Rasheeda Brown (left) and Kiara Johnson (right) study at the Marx Library.

Rasheeda Brown (left) and Kiara Johnson (right) study at the Marx Library.

Natasha Spradlin

Natasha Spradlin

Rasheeda Brown (left) and Kiara Johnson (right) study at the Marx Library.

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Students at the University of South Alabama can find First Gen stickers on the doors of professors who were once First Generation College students, all of whom have open door policies that welcome students to ask questions or seek guidance.

Rasheeda Brown, a USA senior and member of USA’s First Generation College Student Organization, said it is imperative first generation college students have access to resources, networking opportunities and guidance while learning to navigate university life.

“Most people in high school teach you how to get in college but they don’t tell you how to stay in college,” Brown said.

Dr. Tony G. Waldrop, USA president, began a faculty and staff outreach program for First Generation College Students in 2016. As a FGCS himself, Waldrop’s initiative began as a platform to connect students with USA faculty, staff and administrators who understand the struggles first generation college students face.

FGCS are students whose parents or guardians did not complete a four-year college degree, according to USA’s First Generation College Student page. However, USA recognizes some First Generation College students may not fit into this category. Some FGCS have siblings who have attended higher education, or come from single parent households.

According to Kiara Johnson, President of USA’s First Generation College Student Organization, FGCS face a number of challenges in their academic careers. Many FGCS do not know how the college system works or how to apply to college, receive financial aid or choose a major. All of these challenges make it difficult for FGCS to adjust and succeed in the unfamiliar culture that is university life.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that first generation college students are less likely than their continuing-generation peers to persist through the first couple of years of college.

Research published by the College Board, a non-profit dedicated to connecting students to college success, found that first-generation SAT and ACT test-takers tend to have less core academic preparation and score lower than later generation test-takers.

Johnson said half the battle for FGCS is identifying themselves as a one.

“South has done a good job at providing a platform for first generation college students,” Johnson said. “But I do feel like we need more improvement. A lot of people do not know the term FGCS. As a whole, we need to do a lot more to emphasize what is considered to be a first generation college student.”

Johnson and Brown encourage FGCS to seek out professors who display First Gen Stickers, and get involved with the First Generation College Student Organization on campus.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help,” Brown said. “I was one of those people. I didn’t know who to go to, or who to talk to about certain things. A lot of professors are actually First Generation College Students which I didn’t know until recently. It was exciting for me to see that many people have been in my shoes and can help others who are going through, or have been through the same things.”

Students can get involved with the FGCS by following them on their social media pages @FGCS_ USA. Faculty and staff can obtain FCGS stickers by emailing Dr. Carr at [email protected]

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First Gen professors help USA students