The Hopkins community celebrated National First-Generation College Student Day on Keyser Quad on Nov. 8. The First-Generation, Limited-Income (FLI) Network, part of the Center for Student Success, organized the event, which included tabling, free food, T-shirt giveaways, music and a photo booth.
The FLI Network, comprised of students, staff and faculty, launched during the summer of 2018. Its purpose is to promote solidarity and belonging among students who are from low-income families or who are the first in their family to attend college.
Friday marked the second year that Hopkins has recognized National First-Generation College Student Day. Last year, the FLI Network distributed hot chocolate and cookies outside of Levering Hall.
Senior Felicia Petterway, president of “I’m First,” the student organization affiliated with the FLI Network, helped organize both events. She noted how much the event has grown in the past year.
“Last year we had this event, but it wasn’t anything like this,” she said. “This past year the FLI Network has just gotten so big, and we have all this funding now to have this huge event. We’ve been planning this for weeks, and I’m just so happy with the turnout.”
Petterway explained that for her, showing up at the event was important in part because it gave both FLI students and the University a chance to recognize the value that FLI students bring to campus.
“Every type of student has something to bring, and FLI students are no different. FLI students have so many different skill sets growing up. I grew up very independent and I had to mature very quickly. I’ve learned to do a lot of things on my own, and a lot of those are very tangible skills that I bring to Hopkins,” she said. “Without FLI students, this school would not be the same.”
Petterway estimated that over 100 students attended the celebration.
Freshman Pritha Saha also appreciated the high student turnout.
“I feel like it’d be daunting, understandably, to be first-gen or FLI, so you need to know that you’re supported by your peers, not just your faculty,” she said.
Junior Adriana Medina, who works in the Blue Jay Families division of Homewood Student Affairs, helped to staff the event. She photographed students who wrote messages on a whiteboard, explaining that she would post the photos on the University’s social media accounts for students’ families to see.
Medina hoped that posting the photos would encourage FLI students to apply to Hopkins.
“They might feel like they won’t fit in,” she said. “Showing that we do have a large amount of students who are first-gen, that they are very welcome here and that they have a very big community here on campus... would help get prospective students to want to apply and feel like they belong here.”
She also described the celebration as an important way to support current first-generation students at Hopkins.
Freshman Gerardo Cepeda echoed Medina’s sentiments in an email to The News-Letter.
“This a super fun event because it connects people coming from the same circumstances. We can be proud of representing students from low income families who may also be first-generation, or vice versa,” he wrote.
Sophomore Karelys Ramos also attended the event. She commended the University’s efforts to support the FLI community at Hopkins.
“A lot of schools say that they’re working to support first-generation students or limited-income students, but I really see the work that Hopkins is trying to do to support us,” she said. “An important role on my side is to actually come out to these events, to meet other FLI students, so that we know that we have each other,” she said.
Ramos added, however, that she believes that the University could expand its resources for FLI students.
Similarly, Petterway emphasized that Hopkins has only recently started to make a concerted effort to support FLI students. This semester, Hopkins began implementing FLI-specific resources in the Career Center and Life Design Lab.
Petterway discussed how being a FLI student has impacted her time at the University.
“It’s been really difficult especially because we are just now starting to recognize FLI students and the struggles that they have. We’re making so many amazing efforts to correct the issues and some of the problems that I’ve had to deal with in the past,” Petterway said. “I’m really glad that I can start paving the way for future FLI students. Hopefully they’ll have a much easier time than I did.”
Amber Brown, a budget analyst for FLI programs who volunteered at the event, agreed that while Hopkins may not have always done enough to support FLI students, that has recently changed.
“They’re doing a very great job at trying to make sure that they’re doing really good for our FLI students,” she said.
Cepeda reflected on participating in Envisioning Your Future, the University’s first Pre-Orientation program specifically for FLI students.
“Through that program, I learned a lot about what it means to be a FLI student at Hopkins and how there are resources if we’re ever in need,” he wrote.
Freshman Joaquin Liviapoma, a first-generation student, described how the Mentoring Assistance Peer Program (MAPP) has helped him feel him supported on campus. MAPP connects students from underrepresented populations with upper-class mentors.
“[MAPP] has helped me make new friends, and my mentor has helped me through classes,” he said.
Freshman Jonathan Yip noted that while being a FLI student has impacted the way he views college, it has not significantly affected his time at Hopkins.
“It’s definitely affecting my mentality involved in approaching college, but I think my time at Hopkins has been similar to any other freshman,” he said.
Although she sees some room for improvement, Ramos explained that the high turnout at the National First-Generation College Student Day celebration helped her feel welcomed and supported.
“It’s so wonderful to see... these school faculty that I see all the time because now I know that they know what it means to be a FLI student,” she said. “It feels really warm and welcoming.”