First generation college students not alone: panel

First Generation Panelists from left to right: Amanda Serino, Corrine Johnston, Mobeen Sheik, and Sandra Tassone. (Photo: Shannon MacDonald) First Generation Panelists from left to right: Amanda Serino, Corrine Johnston, Mobeen Sheik, and Sandra Tassone. (Photo: Shannon MacDonald)

Shannon MacDonald
Senior Reporter

Nivedita Lane and the First Year Experience program want to make sure all new students are comfortable in their transition into post-secondary education.

A panel of first generation Humber faculty was brought together by the FYE program so students could ask questions and mingle with people who have gone through similar experiences.

A first generation student is someone who is the first of their lineage to go to college. And that can be challenging, as the panelists explained.

“The reason why we have specific programing for first generation students is because you might not have someone you are close to who can say ‘this is what the process looks like, this is what to expect,’” Lane said.

One of the best ways to overcome these challenges is to get involved, said Mobeen Sheik, founder and former president of the Good Deeds club.

“As a first generation student it is really scary to come to an institution like this,” he said. “I didn’t know who to ask for support or about the resources.

“But I realized that this was going to impede on my education. I chose to start professional development skills, so speaking publically, joining clubs. And that really helped me join the Humber community.”

The panel was comprised of people who had different backgrounds and faced different challenges throughout their post-secondary education.

Sandra Tassone has faced several challenges as a second-career student, taking a full course load at the University of Guelph-Humber, as well as working there part-time. On top of that, she struggles with being the sole provider for her three children and her elderly mother.

“I found myself with three children, unemployed and without really a structure or plan,” she said. “I got a job at the Rexdale Community Hub. In working at the wonderful facility I was able to network.”

It was there that she met Humber staff who urged her to go back to school.

“The best advice I would give to any student is network as best as you can and try to involve yourself in school related [activities]. You never know who you may meet,” Tassone said.

Another topic that was addressed was how easy it can be to get overwhelmed with the stress of achieving goals without financial support. Panelist and Humber alumni Amanda Serino understands that completely.

“So as a student working four jobs and full time school there were a lot of times where I felt really stressed and wanted to quit my jobs and stop school completely because it got to a point where I didn’t have time to myself,” Serino said.

One of the best ways Serino found to help relieve those anxieties was to take advantage of Humber’s counselling services.

“I talked to [a counselor], and she listened to me and told me it was okay that I felt stress. Look into counselling and student wellness and accessibility because once you graduate, counselling isn’t free anymore and it’s really expensive.”

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