Today@Sam Article

Heritage Magazine: Paving The Way – Student Empowers First Generation Peers

June 26, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Campbell Atkins


Abbigail Albright is all too aware of the numerous fears that go through the minds of first-generation college students on a daily basis, especially when they first step foot on campus.

“I think I automatically assumed that everybody else knew what they were doing, so I was scared beyond my mind,” said Albright on her first week at Sam Houston State University. “I was scared to ask questions because I felt like I didn’t belong like the other students.”

Albright then discovered SHSU’s First-Generation Center and their personnel, who helped quell her fears and believe in her abilities. Years later, she is now a part of the center’s life changing team as a student mentor and does the same for other students who are experiencing the same fears and self-doubt she once did.

“Having a first-generation center at any university is super important,” Albright said. “As a first-generation student, knowing the center was available automatically made me feel so much more comfortable. The people within the center really helped me get more comfortable with college and I’ve seen them turn students around. People have come in completely panicked and walked out with much more confidence that they were going to conquer college successfully.”

Albright is a health science major at SHSU, but originally planned on pursuing a major she felt might be easier to navigate through since she lacked the confidence in herself to obtain her greatest dreams. After speaking with Jaime Peña, the center’s assistant director, and other personnel, she realized that she should pursue what makes her happy during her college experience. Now, armed with the confidence and know-how, she plans to earn the degree of her dreams after the fall of 2025 semester while mentoring for the center that has played such a critical role in her collegiate journey.

“My favorite part of working at the First-Gen Center would definitely be helping out other students who are just like I was and being able to be a mentor for them,” Albright said. “Our staff is specially trained to be student mentors and we really strive to help students and make them feel more comfortable.” 

Albright-portrait.jpgOn top of assisting first-generation students on campus and providing resources for them, Albright also supports the center’s marketing efforts and creates flyers for events they hold on campus. Along with her fellow mentors, she is a beacon for first-generation students and a friendly, helping face at tabling sessions and other events.

“Students have the voice. Students are the ones that make a real impact,” Peña said. “They connect with other students during our activity sessions and workshops that we have, because we want to make sure students feel connected and feel that community.”

One of the reasons Peña pegged Albright as a strong candidate to take on the student worker position was her relatability and the connection she could make with other students on the center’s behalf as they attempt to establish a sense of community.

“I truly believe she was inspirational, because the one thing that really motivates people is the story you can tell,” Peña said. “It’s the story that someone tells that makes you say, ‘I was in your shoes. I had a similar experience.’ It’s that connectivity and similarity that they have in that story. That was a big reason I wanted Abbigail to be in this role and be that mentor for her peers.”

To read the full version of Heritage Magazine - Spring 2024, follow this link.

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