First in Line: A place of belonging for Baylor’s first-gen students
Did you know that more than 2,400 current Baylor students — nearly 1/5th of the student body — represent the first generation of their family to attend college? Most Bears don’t know that, including some of the very students who make up that number. We share that, because there’s a sense of confidence that comes from discovering you are not alone — and that is just one of the many reasons that Baylor First in Line exists.
First in Line walks alongside first-generation college students as they transition to college life, offering a wide variety of resources. As the program manager (and a first-generation college graduate), Dr. Mito Diaz-Espinoza, MSED ’10, knows well the joys and challenges first-gen students face, and he applies his own experience as he works with them.
“For me, it felt like everyone else already knew what they were talking about,” Diaz-Espinoza remembers. “It made me nervous to ask questions. You go along with it and nod your head, and make assumptions from the context clues. But it feels like everyone else knows the game and the rules, and you’re learning as you go.”
But amidst those concerns and questions, a fierce determination and a strong work ethic are also a hallmark of many first-generation students. “The imposter syndrome feelings that a lot of first-generation students feel, I felt that,” says Diaz-Espinoza. “It became a motivation for me because I didn’t want to be someone who went away, failed and came back.”
In addition to providing community, a sense of belonging and a place for students (and their parents) to ask questions and find answers, First in Line offers programs like the First in Line Success Academy (FILSA), which features academic workshops and team-building activities in advance of Welcome Week. Once on campus, first-gen students can find mentors in the Peer Leader program, as well as peers who understand the unique problems first-gen students in the First in Line Student Society. Yet another program, called GAIN, helps connect first-gen students with internships and other resources to help ensure their professional success.
“Knowing that you’re not the only first-generation student here, that you’re not going through this alone, that is very beneficial,” says Amy Nguyen, a sophomore health science studies major. “I always let my professors know that I’m a first-generation student. Before First in Line, I thought it was a negative thing. But now I own up to it because I’m bucking the trend.”
Sic ’em, First in Line and first-generation Bears!