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Legacies in the Making

Uma Mahalingam, Nicole Videla, Ramapo College of New Jersey / The Center / October 12, 2023

Ramapo College of New Jersey Legacies Pinning Ceremony

Ramapo College of New Jersey proudly welcomed its incoming first-year class in fall 2023, with 47% of the incoming students identifying as first-generation. To ensure these students have the support they need to thrive in their new academic environment, the First-Generation Student Center introduced its inaugural Summer Pre-College Program named by the students as Legacies in the Making. Student Melina Stamatiou shared, “When I first committed here, I was extremely nervous. With being a first-generation college student, I didn’t have anyone in my family to give me advice or aid me in any way. But then when I saw an email about the Legacies in the Making program, I felt so relieved.”

The Legacies in the Making program was designed with the specific goal of assisting first-generation students with their transition to college life. This three-day program hosted 43 students on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday leading into the broader campus-wide welcome week events, setting the stage for an enriching start to their college experience. Participants had the chance to move in early, explore the campus, get familiar with important locations, and gain a sense of belonging before the larger student body moved to campus.

Student Ashley Hernandez shared, “I liked how there was time for us as incoming freshmen to get to know one another before the rest of the campus came.”

One of the key components of the program was community building. Recognizing the importance of a support system, the program encouraged students to form bonds with their peers and college faculty and staff. Through icebreaker activities, team-building exercises, workshops, and group discussions, students had the opportunity to begin building their first-generation community. Workshops students were able to choose from included, “What’s Your Story?: A Legacy in the Making“, expressing the importance of storytelling on their first-generation journey. Additionally, other workshops included topics such as mentoring and creating a personal board of directors.

Ramapo College of New Jersey - Legacies in the Making students under the Arch
The program also facilitated interactions with peers, staff members, and alumni who shared their experiences and inspired our “legacies”. Students engaged in conversations with College President, Dr. Cindy Jebb, to kick off the weekend, providing them with a unique opportunity to connect with leadership early on. Students heard from Ramapo College alumnas and keynote speaker Juliana Lodoño, a licensed mental health therapist, as she shared her own experiences as a first-generation student and how they contributed to her ultimate success.

Legacies in the Making transitioned into the broader campus-wide welcome week events by concluding with a first-generation pinning ceremony that invited family members, guests, and college leadership to celebrate our newest “legacies”. Uma Mahalingam, Assistant Director of the First-Generation Student Center, shared with students, “We encourage you to wear this pin proudly throughout your Ramapo College experience, whether it’s at an event, during an interview, or even on your backpack to highlight the strength, resilience, and perseverance you bring to our community.”

The pinning ceremony ensured that students felt fully integrated into the Ramapo College community from the very beginning, creating a smooth and supportive transition to welcome week and the rest of their college journey.

Early exposure to Ramapo College through the Legacies in the Making program helped demystify the college environment and alleviate some of the anxiety associated with starting a new chapter for our newest first-generation students. The program introduced students to additional resources, such as the Tri-Alpha Honor Society, Learning Commons Connections Program, and mentoring initiatives. The program reassured our students that by choosing Ramapo College, they have the tools and support needed to thrive as they work toward becoming the first in their families to graduate with a 4-year degree.

For more information on Ramapo College of New Jersey's approach, please visit their website here.