SUNY Oswego has workshops and a connecting event slated for Nov. 8 to celebrate National First Generation College Student Day, which is dedicated to students who are the first in their families to attend college.

"Approximately one-third of SUNY Oswego students are first gen,” said event coordinator and academic success advisor Kayle Light-Curtin. An Oswego alumnus who was a first-generation student, Light-Curtin said a large cohort of faculty and staff also were the first in their families to get a degree, with many signing up to help during the day.

At 1:45 p.m. Monday, a panel featuring Oswego alumni who were the first in their families to go to college will include 2001 alumnus Saleem Cheeks, vice president of communications at AngioDynamic; 2020 graduate Nikki G. Brown, an artificial intelligence brand specialist for IBM; and 2011 graduate Jenn Lee, lead colorist at ECG. Moderators Dr. Tiphanie Gonzalez, an Oswego alum and current counseling and psychological services faculty member, and current first-gen student Damien Nguyen will ask panelists questions pertaining to their first-generation experience at Oswego and its impact on their life after college. Panelists will also answer questions from the audience. Students can attend in person in 114 Marano Campus Center or virtually via this Zoom link.

From 3 to 4 p.m. on Monday, senior communication major Jaylea Ransom, who interns in the EXCEL (Experiential Courses and Engaged Learning) Office, will present “Navigating a New Path: Internships and Experience” in 210 Marano.

“I will essentially talk about the steps that I have taken as a first-generation student that helped me create connections, secure an internship and make the most of my college experience," Ransom said. Ransom also will provide information about the many resources SUNY Oswego has to offer. 

Ransom admitted that the transition as a first-gen student was a little overwhelming at first but she was able to find the necessary help.

“As a first-generation student, sometimes you will feel alone and defeated, but please do not give up," Ransom advised. "Even though asking for help can be scary or you feel like a burden, there really are people who want to help you succeed and will give you valuable advice. There may be times when we feel that we have to do more in comparison to our peers, but everything is manageable and you are not alone.”

First Gen Day also will feature first-gen faculty and staff giving out stickers, cookies and first-gen scholarship info, while sharing information about first-generation students from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. just outside the Marano Campus Center auditorium. The day also will feature a raffle for “I’m First” apparel.

The day is sponsored by First LEAP, a group of faculty and staff who come together to support first gen students, with assistance from the Division of Graduate Studies.

Many interesting stories exist among Oswego's first-generation students, such as freshman adolescence education major Ellen Argueta. As a child of immigrants, Argueta said she felt she owed it to her parents to make something of herself -- and already has done so by becoming both a Presidential Scholar and Marano Scholar.

“My family was extremely proud of me for becoming a Presidential and Marano Scholar," Argueta said. "We were always worried about the financial aspect of college, so having that help really is a huge part of why coming to this school was the best choice for me. There is so much help and support given to first-generation students which is comforting in a place that is so new and intimidating to us.”

Argueta’s advice to other first-gen students is to be proud of themselves because making it to college is a huge accomplishment. 

-- Written by Braylon Noble of the Class of 2021