Breaking barriers for first-generation college students

NIU’s Office of Student Engagement and Experiential Learning, Counseling & Consultation Services, and Military and Post-Traditional Student Services held an information session on Jan. 25 for “Breaking Barriers,” a new on-campus group for first-generation college students. This meeting group is designed to provide support, mentoring and professional development to ensure first-generation college students have all of the tools they need for a successful transition into college and appropriate guidance to keep them on the right path to receive their undergraduate degree on time.

One of Breaking Barriers’ top priorities is addressing the needs of first-generation college students and providing opportunities for them to grow. During the January information session, students discussed areas of struggle such as seeking out financial aid, time management, career preparedness and networking. Additionally, students were provided with a list of ways to be successful, which included joining student organizations, and guidance regarding communication with their professors and other university staff members.

Three student leaders have volunteered to act as mentors for the participants, facilitate discussions and voice common issues on behalf of their peers.

“I am greatly looking forward to the next [Breaking Barriers] meeting,” said student leader Johnathan Freeman. “The collaboration between members and open style of discussion allows for a spectacular environment for critical thinking. I feel that these conversations will lead to greater success within my personal student career along with many other future first-generation students… It bodes well for the future first-generation students that arrive on campus.”

All first-generation college students are strongly encouraged to participate in Breaking Barriers to receive tools and guidance to set them on the path to academic and career success. For first-generation students, it is important to know that you are not alone. Taking part in a community like Breaking Barriers will foster growth, friendship and a solid support system among its members. Breaking Barriers created this welcoming and supportive environment for first-generation students to not only socialize with each other but grow together and succeed throughout their academic career and beyond.

For more information, contact Nelisha Gray with AmeriCorps VISTA at ngray@niu.edu or 815-753-8154.

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