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The Antelope

Festival celebrates, connects first-generation students

First-Gen+students+throw+their+Lopes+after+festival+awards.+Photo+by+Traeton+Harimon+%2F+Antelope+Staff
First-Gen students throw their Lopes after festival awards. Photo by Traeton Harimon / Antelope Staff

healeye@lopers.unk.edu

This year’s First-Gen Festival was full of yard games, booths of college organizations and carnival-themed foods of popcorn, donuts and hot dogs. The event was made possible thanks to the First-Gen executive team, the organization’s coordinators and the overall support received from UNK faculty and students.

Kyle Means, director of marketing at UNK and co-chair of the first-gen leadership team, said this was a new take on the typical first-gen event criteria. Usually, the event would consist of a speaker and students listening in, but this time they wanted an event that felt like a celebration. 

Means delved into the activity happening at the event. 

“It’s been really fun to see people interacting with resource tables and the different departments on campus,” Means said.

Departments like the Learning Commons, LPAC, and the Student Health and Counseling center were also present at the event. The First-Gen leadership team wanted to include these interactions to show students that they are positively supported by the campus’s departments. 

The leadership team consists of faculty, staff and students. Their main goal is to focus on First-Gen initiatives. Rebeca Salinas, secretary of First-Gen, shared her feelings about this event taking place.

“I am really excited for all First-Gen students from UNK to come to this event and have fun, especially to connect with other first-generation students,” Salinas said.

Brittany Chavez, president of the First-Gen student association, talked about what the event meant to her. 

“I’m a first-generation student,” Chavez said. “I know what it feels like to go through everything – to come to college and not know what you’re doing at all.”

Chavez detailed how she was able to make connections through the Thompson Scholars Community and TRIO at UNK, programs that support first-generation students. This led her to her position in the organization and a passion for helping other students just like her.

“I want to help others who are struggling as first-generation students and let them know they are not alone,” Chavez said.

The success of many first-generation students was able to be recognized and appreciated at this event. Emily Bahr, assistant director of the Learning Commons, was awarded “Friend of First-Gen” for being a constant avenue of support for first-generation students. Estefano Paez was awarded as the “First-Gen Trailblazer” for being an outstanding first-generation student.

The first-generation student association has several other events that they hold on campus. They have workshops discussing healthy meals at affordable prices, study nights for students and opportunities for students to learn about the FAFSA process. The leadership team has a support system for first-generation students. They are willing to answer any questions or concerns that the students may have in their personal or college lives. 

Chavez shared some advice for the benefit of other first-generation students as they transition into college life.

“Keep working toward your dreams,” Chavez said. “It’s hard sometimes when you feel like you don’t know what you’re doing. But there is a support system here at UNK.”

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Eve Healey, Reporter
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