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First Generation Students are Family Pioneers

Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Communications
Photo courtesy of Ole Miss Communications

More than 300 Ole Miss students are doing something that no one else in their families has ever done – they’re attending college. Now the university is launching a new program to make the experience even better for these first-generation students.

Crystal Armstrong, an academic advisor at the Center For Student Success and head coordinator for “Students First,” says that this is the first official year for the program. A similar effort previously never got off the ground because of lack of participation.. This time, after sending an email to all of the university’s confirmed first-generation students, Armstrong received feedback from 22.

“We got a little bit less than 10 percent so we had 22 students participate, which is great compared to the turnout we had in the past,” said Armstrong. “It was a very diverse population with different backgrounds.”

Armstrong says Students First is designed to help participants establish friendships, strengthen interpersonal skills, develop study skills and create student professionalism. They plan to rely on peer mentors, as well.

“We felt that if students could hear from peers because they’re more like them, that they’re more likely to be receptive to information.”

The upperclassmen that will be lending a hand will be trained at the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, according to Armstrong.

Though adjusting to college life can be harder for first-generation students than others, Armstrong says Students First considers these students pioneers for their families.

Anthony Dicandia is a junior here at Ole Miss and a first-generation student. He says he didn’t know about Students First, but he does feel like a trailblazer.

“I feel proud to be the first person in my family to attend college,” said Dicandia. “I never thought I would be in Mississippi at a big SEC college working on journalism; it’s just cool to know that I never thought of myself going to college and I made it.”

Zack McGee, a freshman at the university and another first-generation college student, says he wasn’t aware of the program until this week, but he commends Armstrong and Students First on their efforts to offer students help and assistance.
“I think it’s really cool how they help you in the classroom and in making friends and meeting new people,” McGee said. “Being at a beautiful college like this with so many different things to do is no fun if you don’t have anyone to do it with.”

“Helping students reach their full potential is out ultimate goal,” said Armstrong. The first official meeting will take place in November. To find out more you can contact the Students First program at (662) 915-5970. Armstrong hopes the program will make a difference.

“I’m looking forward to helping the students and seeing how we can help this population become more comfortable with themselves and also change that stigma from that’s negative to one that is much more positive,” she said.

Malique Alleyne, journalism student, Meek School of Journalism and New Media

You can email Malique at mvalleyn@go.olemiss.edu

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