The Intersection

Reflections on a First-Generation Experience: Kayela Buffaloe, John M. Belk Impact Fellow | myFutureNC

December 17, 2020


On December 10, 2020, myFutureNC and the College Advising Corps jointly hosted a virtual panel to give voice to the experiences of first-generation college students in North Carolina. According to the Higher Education Act, a first-generation student is classified as a student whose parents have not obtained a bachelor’s degree, but the conversation revealed that being the first in your family to go to college is just one of the many barriers these students face in making the transition to college. Additional barriers range from identifying as immigrants to coming from families who are low-income. Because of this, first-generation students serve as a modern example of making the impossible, possible.

Panelists were asked a series of questions on topics related to access to resources, finding the right groups on campus, and even common fears and concerns they have had navigating the college process.

One of the biggest commonalities the panelists shared was with the identification and use of resources available on campus. Panelists were all aware that they did not start the journey to and through college with the same privileges as their peers; however, each of them emphasized that at every step of the journey there have been resources facilitating their success. For example, all panelists expressed that college financing was a major concern, but had learned about scholarships, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and available aid through the College Foundation of North Carolina.

Upon arriving to campus, panelists reflected that they felt worried about meeting people and making friends. However, they later realized the importance of joining organizations and not being afraid to use their voices to advocate for themselves through emailing and connecting with campus-provided resources.

Often first-generation students do not start their higher education journey with the same college-going perspective as their peers. The panelists proved, however, that when we invest in first-generation students they are just as capable if not more capable than their peers who have started the race towards postsecondary attainment with ease. This is the exact mission of myFutureNC. In working to support groups who serve as resources to remove barriers for first-generation and marginalized students, myFutureNC hopes to normalize a college-going culture throughout our state and make college more accessible and attainable for all students.

The stories of first-generation students are more valuable than ever and should be amplified as they continue to disprove the statistics set against them from the start of their journeys. These students symbolize the excellence manifesting in North Carolina. I hope you will watch and share the recording of the panel discussion at this link to hear directly from first-generation students, and that you will join me in committing to work to support all first-generation students throughout North Carolina.

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