New York Tech student at graduation with his father


I’m First! Sharing First-Generation Experiences

November 13, 2020

Twenty-four percent of New York Tech students identify as first-generation, meaning that they are either the first of a generation to become a citizen in a new country, the first of a generation to be born in a country of parents who had immigrated, or the first of a generation to graduate from a university.

In recognition of National First-Generation Student Day, the Office of Student Engagement hosted an event on November 9 to recognize New York Tech’s first-generation students.

“I’m First! Sharing First-Generation Experiences” featured a panel of two New York Tech first-generation students, Christopher Garzon and Swethra Jayaraj, as well as Karen Vahey, Ed.D., dean of admissions and financial aid, and Tiffani Blake, M.S., M.Ed., assistant provost for student engagement and development, who led the discussion.

Blake started the conversation by sharing her own experience as a first-generation student. Highlighting the struggles and difficulties she went through, she opened the floor for an honest discussion among the panelists. She also emphasized the satisfaction and pride that comes with being the first person in one’s family to work towards a college degree.

Many of the panelists’ hardships as a first-generation student were mutual. The majority of their challenges dealt with acclimating to college schedules and workloads, as well as introducing the college student lifestyle to their families. The perception of college can vary from country to country, and panelists pointed out that introducing the American college experience to international families can be especially challenging. Panelist Jayaraj said that “the best way to take care of your family is to take care of yourself first.”

Support from family, friends, and professors is critical to any student’s success. It is especially vital for the first-generation student whose family may not be familiar or know what to expect of the college experience. Blake provided information about the support systems and resources available to students at New York Tech to make their transition to college easier, including tutoring, mentoring with experienced students, and a web page with a variety of helpful links specifically designed for first-generation students.

This event is part of the Office of Student Life’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Series in collaboration with Career Services. It is featured in the New York Tech Votes initiative and is part of our mission to build a civically engaged campus community.