CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) – An upcoming discussion held by West Texas A&M University (WT)’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion is set to focus on first-generation students and their experiences during a panel discussion on Oct. 19 in the Student Senate Chamber at 12:30 p.m.
Members of F1RSTGEN, described by WT as a student organization aiming to encourage first-generation learners on the campus, are scheduled to participate in the panel. The event, part of the We Are One Diversity Talks series, will be inside the Jack B. Kelley Student Center and free to attend.
As of the 2020-21 academic year, 49% of WT’s student population is first-generation, said F1RSTGEN adviser and Study Abroad program coordinator Jonathan Cordova.
“We want students, faculty and staff to understand what it means to be a first-generation student and to talk about the experiences first-generation students have at WT,” Cordova said.
Allan Baltazar, a senior criminal justice and psychology major from Houston and F1RSTGEN member, said he’ll discuss how he found his place on the WT campus.
“What helped me was branching out and becoming involved on campus,” Baltazar said. “That’s the kind of thing I didn’t know was something you could do because I didn’t have any previous exposure to that, but it has helped me feel more comfortable as a public speaker and in finding resources I need on and off-campus.”
Jolaine Machado, a sophomore biology major from Pampa, also will participate on the panel with Cordova and Baltazar.
Cordova said the F1RSTGEN students will talk about why it is important to them and to their families that they attend WT.
“We’re trying to change that paradigm where all you do is work,” Cordova said. “That was the inspiration for my parents when they pushed me and my siblings to go to college. They wanted us to get a good education and be able to secure for ourselves a good life.”
WT also is a Hispanic Serving Institution, and while not all first-generation students are Hispanic, a good deal of them are, Cordova said.
“Being an HSI creates a welcoming environment for Hispanic students, particularly those who are first-generation,” Cordova said. “We hope this opens their eyes.”