‘It’s rewarding:’ First-generation students meet up in the RSC

Natanya Ordonez, President of the First Generation Student Organization, converses with Lydia Santiago, First Generation Student Organization Co-Advisor. On Nov 10, the First Generation Student Organization hosted a first-gen mingle for first generation college students to connect.

With 45% of Wichita State students being first-generation students, Lydia Santiago, executive assistant in the office of the provost, said it’s important to celebrate first-generation students. “F1rst-Gen Mingle” was just one of the events for first-generation students this week. The event was a casual meet-up with free shirts, lanyards, foods and the opportunity to build connections.

“Students are stressed, so they can get together in a room and place in space just to hang out and see and feel the people that know what they’re going through,” Santiago said. 

Santiago said that first-generation students don’t always have that support or guidance during college. 

“As we continue to talk and visit with students and get to know them, we hear the same message, ‘Where do we go from here?’” Santiago said.

Mythili Rachakonda, a graduate student studying computer science, saw her parents struggling back in India and wanted to come to Wichita State to learn more than they did. Rachakonda appreciates first-generation events because it gives more knowledge to other students. Rachakonda has a support system through her sister.

“She [her sister] also completed a bachelor’s. She’s working so I have a support system, and she helped me a lot.” Rachakonda said. 

Andres Saenz, a senior studying music education, dreamt about coming to Wichita State since he was a kid, and he said picking WSU was a straightforward decision.

“My parents only got up to a middle school level education, and they’re also not from here,” Saenz said, “And they always harp on me since a kid, you know like education is very important. And I think over time as I’ve gone through, like middle school, high school, like I’ve really seen how important it is.”

Saenz said his sister is also a first-generation student and seeing what she’s accomplished at Wichita State inspired him to attend the university as well.

Being a first-generation student comes with its own challenges.

 “There’s like a disconnect between … what your parents know about college and between what we know,” Saenz said. 

Saenz said the biggest difference between first-generation students and students who had parents attend college is the disconnect of information.

“Being a first-gen is not easy, but it’s very rewarding,” Saenz said. 

More events for first-generation students can be found at Wichita.edu. 

This story has been updated from a previous version.