The Legacy Scholars Program at Westminster College creates opportunities for first-generation students to meet peers who have similar backgrounds.
Tiasha Baez, a second-year student at Westminster College, found her community of first-generation students through the Legacy Scholars program.
As a first-generation student, there are often aspects of college that they are unaware of until they step foot on campus. Without family members who can give personal advice on what their college experience was like, it can be a culture shock.
The Legacy Scholars Program eases this transition, giving students a community to lean on to work through these unknowns.
Sophie Caligiuri, a second-year Legacy student at Westminster, said there are several benefits to this program.
“I would honestly not be where I am in college without Legacy Scholars because I came into college literally not knowing anything,” Caligiuri said. “The Legacy Scholars Program provided that support for me.”
The program offers peer-to-peer support as well as support from faculty and staff mentors.
Kari Lindsey, assistant director of the Student Diversity and Inclusion Center, says the Legacy program empowers first-generation students to achieve their goals.
“Part of my role as a mentor is to find opportunities for Tiasha to develop her skills and find connections between them,” Lindsey said. “As a mentor, you are fostering opportunities for their success.”
The Forum sat down with Baez about her experience as a first-generation student at Westminster College. Her answers have been lightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
Q: How would you describe being a first-generation student?
A: Being a first-generation student is fun. It can be challenging at times, especially in such a fast-paced environment like Westminster. Overall, I really do enjoy the opportunity to do this and I am grateful for the support systems I have been able to have like Legacy.
Q: Where did you learn about the college experience?
A: For most of my college experience I learned through television. I would say movies and TV shows. Some here and there from cousins but they lived in different countries so I knew it would be different.
[I knew it] was going to be a different experience even though I have prepared for it all of my life, or what feels like all of my life. I knew I didn’t really know what it was going to be like because I never experienced it before.
Q: What were your expectations of college?
A: I expected it to be really challenging and it’s really hard. But I also thought it would be a lot of fun and it sometimes is fun. But how it is and how college should be it is challenging at times. At first, it was really hard to learn the management between fun and work. When I started out I didn’t think it would be that overwhelming.
Q: What were some of your personal challenges?
A: Personally, time management was a big thing. I knew I was going to go to college. I knew it was important that I toured colleges but I was never very involved with a college like knowing what to expect but it has been very interesting seeing how far I have come with my time management and just talking with professors.
I was so scared to talk to professors. One, TV makes them seem so distant and that that’s just what I thought they were like. Two, they seem like they are just in power and they do have this power and authority but they are really friendly. I have learned a lot since my first semester here.
Q: How would you describe the Legacy program?
A: I would describe Legacy as being a program in which first-generation students, especially those of minority groups, are able to receive leadership skills, academic help and emotional support. And it’s a scholarship program which is really nice to have that financial worry lifted off your shoulders when it comes to books.
I feel like not a lot of first-generation students consider that fee going into college. Like, you think you will have to buy books, but you don’t think about how expensive they are going to be. And emotional support is much needed and that kind of educational background they offer is very much needed. You don’t really know how much you need Legacy until you have Legacy.