Mount Wachusett Community College students, faculty and staff who were the first among their families to have gone to college shared their experiences at a panel in honor of National First Generation College Students Day at MWCC’s Gardner campus.
Seven panelists shared their experiences and give tips to a crowd of current students last week. A running theme from the panel was how the effort to get an education was not just for themselves, but for their family. Education is a game changer for not just those who go to college but the entire family, they said.
“I just want to be able to give my (children) a better life and give us a better life,” said Jessica Lange who is studying at MWCC and plans to get her nursing degree.
They encouraged the gathered students and anyone thinking about going to school to stick with their education. Jerry Maldonado, Assistant Professor of Business at Mount Wachusett Community College, said that opportunities opened up once he got his associate’s degree and those opportunities continued to expand as he got his bachelor’s degree and then his MBA. As he continued to go to school, he was able to be an example to his daughters who both are now in school.
“I realized that whatever I did, my kids were going to emulate,” he said. “I wanted my kids to understand this is something they could do.”
The panelists acknowledged that there are difficulties baked into being the first from your family to go to college. The system can be confusing to those who are not accustomed to it, but at Mount Wachusett Community College there are people who are eager to help, said Senator Stephen Brewer who was a first-generation college student.
“Stay the course. There are enough people in this building that want to see you succeed,” he said.
The panel was the culmination of a week of celebrating first generation students at MWCC. These activities include #1GMWCC bumper stickers, inspiring messaging around campus and warm cups of cocoa to welcome all students to all three MWCC campuses. On-campus fundraising raised over $250 for a First Gen Student Scholarship that will be administered by the MWCC Foundation.
National First Generation College Students Day serves as an opportunity to encourage first generation students, who make up roughly 65 percent of MWCC’s student population, while also recognizing all the accomplishments of first generation students.