FGSA: Where first generation students can feel at home

Every year, the University of New Haven’s list of new Recognized Student Organizations (RSO’s) becomes longer. One of the newest additions is the First Generation Students Association (FGSA) led by E-board members Mya Oliwa, Elizabeth Hall, Izabella Mancini and Kelechi Kenneth-Gabriel.

The FGSA aims to help the university’s students find themselves and connect with others, while also providing the resources that first generation students need and deserve.

Oliwa, a first-generation junior studying criminal justice, found herself in the latter group. She also recognized the lack of resources here at the university.

“My first year was a struggle,” she said. “Especially with financial aid and getting used to being separated from my people.”

COVID-19 largely affected her sophomore year, but it gave her more freedom to learn about herself and her passions. Now that she’s a junior, she looks forward to passing on the knowledge she’s acquired to other first-generation students like herself.

The experiences Oliwa has had so far with other first-generation students include sharing past struggles and bonding over the changes they’d like to make for the campus community. “It’s refreshing,” she said, “being with other people who feel the same way and being able to make a difference for current and future students.”

Mancini, a sophomore psychology major, however, didn’t have the chance to share those experiences with other first-generation students before the creation of FGSA. “We don’t have a support group,” she says. “Now that we have this organization I hope to have more stories and to connect with other first-generation students.”

As a first-generation student,she recognizes the effort it takes to succeed and is sure this organization will make a difference in students’ lives.

For Hall, a psychology major, being a first-generation student gives her that sense of pride. “Being first-gen is challenging,” she said. “Basically, you’re walking through this journey alone, so you’re learning all of it yourself. Persevering gives me a large sense of pride.”

Oliwa, Hall and Mancini value first-generation students’ voices and want to advocate for them as much as possible, while providing students with a sense of community and giving them a space in which they can learn to be proud of who they are.
“There is not nearly enough first-generation representation on this campus,” Hall said. “And the University doesn’t have many resources to help.”

The club’s general meetings are held on Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. in Kaplan 101. They look forward to seeing more students attend and participate in the future.