First-generation students were welcomed Saturday during UT’s second annual First Gen Kickoff at the McCombs School of Business.
The kickoff was organized by the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement (DDCE) and allowed first-generation freshmen to meet upperclassmen, faculty and staff who were also first-generation students.
DDCE’s deputy to the vice president Helen Wormington said the purpose of the event was for students of all backgrounds to not only meet other first-generation students and faculty, but also to be introduced to UT resources.
“This event is for students of all different backgrounds to come together and to give a space for them to interact,” Wormington said. “Our staff and I wish that we had an event like this with opportunities. Back then, it was hard.”
The DDCE is only comprised of first-generation students, faculty and staff, Wormington said.
The kickoff began Saturday with music by a local DJ, games, raffles and food. On Sunday, the event continued with workshops and a speech by keynote speaker Alejandrina Guzman, former Student Government president and first-generation student.
Due to the struggles many first-generation students faced, Guzman developed the idea of the kickoff to create a safe space for first-generation students. In September 2017, Guzman collaborated with the DDCE to host the inaugural First Gen Kickoff, which is now an annual event due to its success.
Many first-generation upperclassmen did not have an event to guide them during their freshmen year. Judith Lima, accounting senior and first-generation student representative for SG, said she had to figure out her way around UT on her own and faced many pressures of being a first-generation student.
“Coming in, it was hard for me to adjust,” Lima said. “I didn’t have anyone to talk to about college.”
Nanxin Ye, a business freshman and first-generation student, said he hopes to find success as the first in his family to go to college.
“As a first-generation student, I want to receive a good education here at UT that will empower me to bring change to my family,” Ye said.
Ye said the event helped him get his foot in the door at UT and was glad the kickoff has become an annual event.
“I think this event is pretty cool,” Ye said. “You get to network and meet a lot of potential leaders.”