Students Take Flight at The Catholic University of America

Javier W. Bustamante, M.A., The Catholic University of America / The Center / December 09, 2020

Launched in 2019, Take Flight supports the transition of first-generation students to life at Catholic University, capitalizing on the gifts and talents they possess. Through their participation in Take Flight, first-generation students navigate their time at The Catholic University of America with confidence and ease. Take Flight allows first-generation students to access all the resources available on campus and beyond easily; reach personal and academic goals; develop healthy habits that ensure academic success; and fully engage in campus life.

The current pandemic has hindered the traditional ways we provide support, but our first-gen students’ adaptability has allowed them to take advantage of our resources and support regardless of the circumstances. Even more, our students have taken great initiative in finding creative ways to overcome obstacles and make the best of college life.

At this year’s Take Flight Annual Celebration, first- and second-year students, along with university faculty, staff, and local community partners gathered in a hybrid celebration that featured student testimonies. It was in these stories that we saw that while COVID-19 has significantly altered college life, one thing that has not changed is the resiliency and tenacity of first-generation college students.

Reflecting on the anticipation and anxiety experienced before leaving home, Regla Garcia, a political science major, expressed that, “Knowing that I was coming to a new city, far away from home, far from my family, I was happy to know that I was already part of a community.” It was this community that helped her make her first friends and overcome the difficulties that quarantining and virtual learning represented during the early weeks of the semester.

Samuel Nwuha, a son of Nigerian immigrants, talked about his early struggles with classes. He mentioned reaching out to his peer mentor and being reassured by his mentor’s actions and words that he “was not alone in this journey that is college.” With that confidence and support, Samuel developed an action plan that would see his performance in school improve significantly.

Angela Luna, a Drama major, spoke about losing her grandmother right before the semester started. She spoke about how Take Flight connected her to the resources she needed to overcome the struggle of starting a new phase in life in the midst of grief.

Finally, Cindy Cintron, a second-year student, talked about how Take Flight allowed her to realize that she was not alone in college. “The Take Flight students are a team, and we support each other. I’ve confided with many, especially about my hopes and dreams, and since we are all so similar and yet completely different, everyone’s experiences are so valuable,” she said.

These stories demonstrate that our students will find ways to overcome the obstacles in front of them and that our work is to accompany them in the journey. The celebration allowed us to recognize the gifts and contributions that first-generation college students have brought to the Catholic University community. We are a better place because they are a part of us.

For more information on The Catholic University of America’s approach, please visit their website here.