First-Generation College Students Support Group

Support Group rules. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Support Group rules. Photo by Melissa Nunez.

Merriam Webster defines a support group as, “a group of people who have similar experiences and concerns and who meet in order to provide emotional help, advice, and encouragement for one another.” Cal Poly’s Counseling Services offers support groups for students with different types of concerns. A support group that is offered to students is the “First-Generation College Students Support Group.”

Cal Poly Counseling Services and Student Academic Services has worked together on this group. Facilitators for the group are Academic Advisors Maria Arvizu-Rodriguez and John Diaz, Psychologist Ana Cabezas and Counselor Julie Ngin.

Cal Poly Counseling Center Psychologist and Diversity Coordinator Herlina Pranata is also a facilitator for the group.

“Their parents have not gone to college and do not know how to help their students navigate the system. Perhaps the parents themselves have put a lot of additional stress on the students. The students have different challenges from left to right so giving them the support that they need will be really important,” Pranata said.

The support group allows students to share their feelings and thoughts in a safe and comfortable environment. Along with sharing, the group is also a place for students to discuss and discover their strengths, personal attributes, power and resources.

Students discuss and share a variety of topics that relate to first-generation students.

“Common topics are how to balance personal stressors with family obligations, being in a very homogeneous campus, feeling out of place, different and how it affects students sense of competence and self-confidence,” Pranata said.

Students who attend the support group get two units credit for it as a PSY 251 Discussion Group. Psychology Professor Dr. Don Ryujin contributed in making the group a class. The group is composed of students from different years and majors.

“I really like how a lot of us can connect through our experiences. We’re all very different but still provide support to one another. We disagree on some things but it teaches us the difference in values that people have,” fourth year aerospace engineering Vanessa Carranza said.

It is also a place where students can develop a new understanding of how their culture, race/ethnicity and other identities affect their college experience as first-generation students.

“It has helped me build my confidence and believe in myself more. I tend to keep things bottled in, and the group has helped me talk more about my experiences and process emotions that I haven’t been comfortable touching upon,” Carranza said.

The group is only a quarter long and even though it can be easy to open up about a few things about others it can be difficult.

“I feel comfortable about sharing social issues and academic issues. I’m not too comfortable about sharing personal issues just yet. I’m still getting to know them,” said first year civil engineering Faridur Rahmen.

It is where students can come together and find someone that they can relate to.

“Being a first generation student, you feel different from other students.  The support group helps me know that I’m not alone. There’s others like me, and it’s great to be surrounded by others who are similar, yet different than yourself,” first year Dairy Science Mika Mercado said.

What is your favorite aspect of the support group?

Faridur Rahman. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Faridur Rahman. Photo by Melissa Nunez.

“My favorite thing about the support group would probably be the diversity. Even though we are all first gens, we all have different experience levels and come from different backgrounds.” – Faridur Rahmen

Mika Mercado. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Mika Mercado. Photo by Melissa Nunez.

“My favorite thing, is the thing I’m most scared of, getting deep. It’s a place where we can let it all out, our stress, what we’re thinking, and we don’t have to worry about being judged.” I’ve been able to hear how everyone has a different story, we’ve all had problems and troubles, but we don’t let it stop us from going forward.”  – Mika Mercado

Jesus Nolasco. Photo by Melissa Nunez.
Jesus Nolasco. Photo by Melissa Nunez.

“I really enjoy the facilitators they seem very willing to help and listen it’s really nice when someone just sits and listens to you without judging you.” – Jesus Nolasco


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