It may sound like a contradiction, but one of the largest student populations on campus is also one where its members can be the hardest to identify, even by the members themselves.
That group would be UNO's first-generation students, making up approximately 40 percent of UNO's 15,000-plus person student body; and UNO's new First Generation Guild task force hopes to make those students, whose parents did not graduate from a four-year university, are seen and supported.
One of those students is Shyla Alvarado, a freshman who came to UNO from Omaha South High School. She says that her parents came to the United States from Mexico in order to provide more opportunities for her and her siblings.
"Some people are like 'Oh I'm so sorry that you're the first one [to go to college]' and I'm like 'No, it's not anything to be sorry about' - it's a good thing."
Alvarado, who is a member of the Thompson Learning Community (TLC), joined several hundred of her fellow first generation students for the launch of the First Generation Guild during a "First Generation Proud" pre-game party ahead of the Omaha Men's Soccer game against The University of Michigan on Friday, Sept. 13.
Kinley Hamilton, a freshman and TLC student who came to UNO from Bellevue West High School, was also in attendance.
"It's been really nice to have people help us walk through the process, like mentors and all the academic advisors," she says. "We're all kind of going through the same thing. With us being first generation we don't have, really, any background of our families going to college so we are struggling together."
First-generation students pose for a photo during the
"First Generation Proud" launch event for the UNO First Generation Guild
Prior to this year, there were a number of first-generation students supported through learning communities like TLC, but many others did not have the same level of support to help navigate the unfamiliar landscape of a college campus.
"The First Generation Guild is providing these students a sense of community, a sense of belonging here on campus - making students feel welcome," explains Shannon Teamer, senior director of Inclusion Programs and Services at UNO. "It's support academically, and out of the classroom; it's a person to talk to, to connect to ; and then celebrating those students' successes."
It's a structure that has already helped another attendee at Friday's event: Antione Curtis, a freshman TLC member from Omaha Bryan High School. His advice to other first-generation students?
"I would say get involved. Just get to know your campus and be active in the college experience."
With more events scheduled throughout the year, Teamer says it's the perfect way to follow Curtis' advice. He welcomes any first-generation student - as well as faculty and staff. It's just important, he says, for first-generation students to see those who were once in their shoes.
"It's an opportunity make sure we are paying attention and that they know we see them and want to see them succeed."
Anyone looking to show thier support with a "First Generation Proud" pin can pick one up at the Mavigation Stations located in the Eppley Administration Building, Milo Bail Student Center and Maverick Landing.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.