How UVU supports first-generation students

I am First provides support to students who are the first in their family to attend college. Photo by Katelyn Hickman.

I am First is part of UVU’s First-Generation Student Initiative program that “seeks to provide first-generation students with evidence-based support needed to thrive in their university experience.” It is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located in the First-generation Student Success Center in LC 412. 

Being a first-generation college student means that neither parent/guardian has completed a U.S. bachelor’s degree, which can present additional challenges to completing higher education. According to the First Generation Completion Initiative, 75% of first-generation students come from a household with an annual income of less than $50,000 and 27% from an annual household income of less than $20,000. Thus, the primary reason first-generation students drop out is financial difficulty. 

“It’s important for first-generation students to have someone at the university that is there to support them,” said Jacquelin Padilla, freshman digital media major. This is particularly true of UVU, since 37% of UVU students are first-generation, according to the 2019 Fact Book.

I am First program manager, Ezra Mintz-Fernandez said, “First-generation success requires buy-in (support) from every UVU employee.” I am First supports first-generation students by providing resources, leadership development, mentoring opportunities and hosting events throughout the fall and spring semester. 

Events are geared toward connecting first-generation students with peers, faculty mentors and other resources. This creates a community that supports their educational needs. From lunch socials with mentors to first-aid for finals, they provide opportunities for students to be active and invested during their time at UVU.

I am First celebrates first-generation students in November to commemorate National First-Gen Day, Nov. 8. This entails a variety of activities, including prizes, faculty panels and educational outreach.

I am First offers scholarships and leadership opportunities to first-generation students. The I am First Leadership Program helps first-year students become familiar with the university and the resources available to them. Participating students often go on to become team leads, where they can help the next round of first-year students. “The LEAD program helps students become the best version of themselves,” said Mintz-Fernandez.

To learn more about the resources available to first-generation students, visit I am First or contact them at [email protected] for additional information. Readers can follow @iamfirstatuvu on Instagram to stay up to date on activities and learn more about I am First. 

Disclosure: Ivette is a first-generation student and volunteers for the I am First program.

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