By Lois Angelo
The First Generation Students Association was initiated in the spring of 2015 after the “First Generation” status was introduced to Loyola’s application. The club is moderated by counselor Gina Liberotti, Co-Director of Campus Ministry Dr. Evelyn Mabra and theology teacher Dr. Jesse Rodriguez.
Founded last year under alumnus Andrew Perez ‘15, the FGSA aspires to teach and assist students who have family members who are unfamiliar with the American education system. Students and their families are then exposed to information regarding college admissions, AP and honors courses and preparation for standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT.
Senior club president David Mendieta said, “The association’s mission is to create a comfortable environment and give first generation students the tools necessary to achieve success at Loyola.”
Mendieta believes that although first generation students live in a more accepting society, there is still a demanding expectation for their integration into the educational system. Mendieta said, “Many first generation students are burdened under pressures of society and lack of representation. Many have conflicting family issues and parents who are unaware of the rigor and expectations of the American education system.”
Liberotti intends to provide first-generation students with a roadmap of high school and the college application process. She initially emphasized the need for identifying first-generation students in order to give them assistance with a good intention.
Consequently, with Liberotti’s help, many members of the FGSA are excited that they have found a haven for guidance and advice regarding applying to college and life away from home.
“The FGSA makes first generation students come to terms with being first generation students and accept those feelings by taking pride in them. Often, we think of being first generation as being a burden or as being isolated or as not knowing what to do. In reality, first generation students, like any students, can succeed if they put their minds to it and do not allow negative connotations to affect them,” Mendieta said.
The group has had several guest speakers, including social science department chairman James Zucker ‘91 and admissions officers from different universities.
Junior Kenny Jung said, “I feel that I am receiving help and advice in the process of learning what it’s like to apply to colleges and preparing for tests, but I am not the only one who is learning from this.”
There are currently 199 students in the total population of Loyola that are first-generation students, who consist of 16.5 percent of student body population. In the club’s first year, FGSA helped several students matriculate to various four-year universities including Loyola Marymount University, the University of Michigan, Harvard University and the University of California, Santa Barbara.
As the group continues to expand, Liberotti hopes to create more connections with universities to give first-generation students more exposure to the education system. She said that the most rewarding element of assisting first-generation students is “seeing the students get the help that was needed.”