National First Generation Student Day celebrates first-generation students on college campuses every year on Nov. 8, the day that the Higher Education Act was signed in 1965.
To celebrate, Point Loma Nazarene University set up a booth on Caf Lane to encourage first-generation students to join a first-generation advisory group.
Maria Zack, a mathematics professor at PLNU, helped lead the booth for National First Generation Student Day.
“Today we wanted to celebrate our first-generation students and raise awareness about the size of the first-generation community at PLNU,” Zack said in an email interview with The Point. “We want LomaFirst students to be proud of being a first-generation student.”
Zack shared some of the different resources around PLNU’s campus for first-generation students.
“LomaFirst is slowly developing programming for students,” Zack said. “For example, during Welcome Week we held two events, one of them oriented toward introducing incoming students to staff in key areas where they might need assistance during their college journey (Student Financial Services, Records, Career Services). The staff members who came to share that day were all first-generation students themselves.”
Zack also said that another way PLNU is hoping to welcome first-generation students is by spreading LomaFirst pins and stickers around campus. She said that the hope is that first-generation students at PLNU will see them and recognize that they are not alone in navigating college and hopefully spark curiosity in first-generation students to seek LomaFirst’s resources.
Zack also said that by celebrating National First Generation Student Day, she hopes that first-generation students at PLNU see that there are other first-generation students on campus too.
“Here is a fun fact: this fall, roughly 25% of the students who joined us on the Point Loma Campus, are first generation (about 195 people),” Zack said. “The rates are even higher for students in our GPS (Graduate and Professional Studies) programs for non-traditional undergraduate students and graduate students. So in every class, there are first-generation students, and many of the faculty and staff at PLNU are themselves first-generation. That includes Dr. Brower and Dr. Fulcher. We want first-generation students at PLNU to know that they are not alone on this journey.”
Walter Augustine, vice president of diversity and belonging, said there are a few reasons why he believes it’s important to celebrate National First Generation Student Day at PLNU’s campus.
“The first reason is that they are a significant portion of our undergraduate population that often goes unrecognized,” Augustine said in an email interview with The Point. “The Center for First-Generation Student Success notes that 1 in 3 undergraduates currently identifies as first-generation college students (at PLNU, that number is currently 1 in 5 undergraduates).”
Augustine also mentioned that some staff and faculty around campus are first-generation students, including the university president.
“The second reason is that first-generation college students are one of the fastest growing demographics of those attending college both now and in the future,” Augustine said. “And the third reason is that it gives us an opportunity to recognize, celebrate and support our amazingly gifted and talented first-generation college students at Point Loma.”
In the article “LomaFirst: Josue Barragan and the First-Generation Experience at PLNU” written by Taylor Pizzuto on PLNU’s ViewPoint website, Josue Barragan shares his life as a first-generation student at PLNU before graduating in 2023.
“Through his academic achievement and family’s financial standing, Josue was able to qualify for the Cal and Pell Grants, as well as academic and need-based scholarships through PLNU.” Taylor Pizzuto writes. “He later received additional PLNU departmental and named scholarships along with multiple awards from local foundations and his father’s employer, the National Steel and Shipbuilding Company (NASSCO) branch of General Dynamics based in San Diego Harbor, where he serves as a leader in the welding maintenance department building commercial cargo and Navy auxiliary ships. And when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Josue also received additional need-based support aid through PLNU’s emergency Loma Relief Fund.”