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National First-Generation College Celebration at Rutgers

First generation students from THRIVE Student Support Services

In honor of Tuesday's National First-Generation College Celebration, we asked students to share their stories about what it means to be the first in their families to go to college. Here is what they had to say.

A Special Place for First-Generation Students

Sebastian Gallon
Jason Brandon

Sebastian Gallon 
School of Environmental and Biological Sciences 

Class of 2023 
Rutgers University-New Brunswick  
Hometown: West New York

As a first-generation Latino college student of Colombian heritage, Rutgers has provided me with a rigorous learning environment and has given me the opportunity to find my own community. Rutgers provides their first-generation students with a plethora of programs that help them seek the tools they need to succeed. Coming to such a large school is daunting at first, but it primes you to be the driver of your own education and I have learned how to be a better self-advocate because of my time at Rutgers. 

Having a strong support system is something that I found at Rutgers. As a college freshman, I enrolled in a cooperative living community, known as Helyar House. This small college dorm perched right next to the scenic farms on Cook campus has been my home for the last four years. Helyar House is truly one of a kind; built in 1968, this dorm serves first-generation, low-income students and provides them with a place they can truly call home. Helyar fosters community involvement, development of interpersonal skills and helps you blossom into a responsible, independent college student. My time at this house has allowed me to pick my chosen family, a necessity as a first-generation student. 

The McNair Scholars program has provided me with a solid foundation towards my attainment of a doctoral degree in Molecular Biology. This program has empowered me not only academically, but also holistically as a person. By providing me with first-hand experience in a research setting, I was able to thrive in a new environment with all the tools that I may not have had otherwise. Ensuring successful completion of my own independent research project, discussing my research at conferences and networking with other McNair Scholars has helped me grow as a scholar. Diversifying our spaces with people of different backgrounds is essential and Rutgers has cultivated an opportunity-filled environment for first-generation students to succeed.

Read the rest of the article on Rutgers Today!