A Student-Led Organization at West Texas A&M University Created by Students, for Students

Jonathan Cordova, George Pacheco Jr., West Texas A&M University / The Center / March 22, 2023

Group of West Texas A&M University students with first-gen program sign

In the Spring 2016 semester, a group of first-generation students came together to question why no official efforts were being made to support the large first-generation student population at West Texas A&M University. With their questions, the idea for F1RSTGEN was born. The students sought support to ignite efforts on campus. In the upcoming Fall 2017 semester, those students' efforts led to the creation of F1RSTGEN, which was later acknowledged as an official student-led organization on our campus. F1RSTGEN is a student organization that promotes success and retention by engaging students in a comfortable setting. This organization welcomes all students, hosts events, participates in campus-wide events, collaborates with the community in service events, and brainstorms social events on and off campus. F1RSTGEN focuses on creating an environment where students feel empowered to ask for help without feeling vulnerable or judged for needing it. The students have built multiple collaborative partnerships where members can lead others in the integrative journey. F1RSTGEN collaborates with AmeriCorps to provide study halls and mentorship to first-generation college students and all students from our university. Our students work with Upward Bound to interact with and mentor high-school students coming to our university. Our students have conversations with them, motivating them and answering any questions they might have about college. F1RSTGEN students have also created collaborations with community organizations such as United Way of Amarillo and Canyon, the Wesley Community Center of Amarillo, Los Barrios de Amarillo, and more. Working together with these organizations has shown our campus that our F1RSTGEN students not only want to make a difference on campus but also in the community by showing that F1RSTGEN is a community for students working to create an inviting, safe, and supportive campus for students to find their paths to success.

F1RSTGEN focuses on creating an environment where students feel empowered to ask for help without feeling vulnerable or judged for needing it.

Group of West Texas A&M University students

In 2017, F1RSTGEN held their first-ever fall semester Kick-Off Bash where they host speaker panels, bring speakers to campus, and provide food, entertainment, and a most welcoming environment to students new to campus. This Kick-Off Bash is a way to welcome students to campus for a new academic year and to let them know there is a support system for those who want to join. It is also a way for students to learn about the organization and meet current F1RSTGEN members, first-generation faculty and staff, and alums. The event has been so successful that other areas of campus have begun their versions of the welcome bash. Students are considering rebranding the bash as part of our current efforts to celebrate National First-Generation College Student Day on November 8th. In 2018, F1RSTGEN started celebrating National First-Generation College Student Day, which has now evolved into a week-long celebration with planned daily events. Events include panels, game nights, movie nights, and speakers. In 2022, students hosted a Yule Ball Banquet (a Harry Potter-themed banquet) that celebrated the first-generation population through music, dancing, awards, and more. Celebratory efforts continue as our students look for different ways to make a positive impact on our campus.

For more information on West Texas A&M University's approach, please visit their website here.