“It was important for me to attend college because I wanted a career and desired to change the dynamics of my family,” said LaQuesha Bloomer. “The women in my family, my mom in particular, have always worked extremely hard but were not able to attend college. I believed that deciding to and successfully completing my college education was the ultimate way to show my gratitude and appreciation for her many sacrifices and hard work through the years.”
Bloomer struggled to stay organized and dropped out of school for three years before returning to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. She said the urge to return and complete the program was based on her belief in fulfilling her purpose in the world. She found encouragement and motivation in a support network, overcame her fear of failure and is now an assistant professor of nursing in Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing.
Bloomer is one of many first-generation college students willing to share how completing a degree had transformational effects on them and their families in commemoration of First Gen Week Nov. 6-10. NSU is joining sister schools in the University of Louisiana System in celebrating First Gen Week to recognize students and graduates who were the first in their families to attend college.
“It’s important for me to share my story because I know there are many others with the same fears,” Bloomer said. “Being a first-generation college student is challenging because there is no blueprint. You must build from the ground up. My advice is to be relentless in the pursuit of your dreams and purpose, be resourceful and don’t let fear of failure stop you from achieving your goals.”
NSU’s TRIO Student Support Services collected first gen stories in a campaign titled “I’m First and Here’s Why I’m Worth It” to highlight the accomplishments of graduates who are the first in their families to navigate the college experience. TRIO SSS provides support to first-generation students and/or students with disabilities with services and assistance to maximize students’ chance of success in college. Services include academic and career advising, tutoring, a resource library and other services to help students graduate, in addition to emotional support for students who may feel lost or out of place.
“The programming that we provide demonstrates a multitude of skills,” said Vashaun South, TRIO’s assistant director. Those skills include financial literacy, stress management, study habits, mentoring and connecting with others. Social events, such as karaoke, game nights and paint-and-sips are opportunities for the students to get acquainted in a relaxed atmosphere.
“Our new participant mixer and welcome back social creates a safe space for students to meet new people, learn more about what we do, how we support them, what to expect and socialize. It’s a great space for introverts to feel comfortable,” South said. “Our mentoring program pairs upperclassmen with entering freshmen with the hopes of forming bonds and connections, giving the new student an instant buddy to help navigate through their transition and provides a safe person to create and experience new places, new people, new ideas, etc.”
TRIO Student Support Services will kick off First Generation College Celebration Week with a block party from 6-8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 6 in the Student Union Circle. On Tuesday, Nov. 7, TRIO will host a “Gratitude” letter campaign in the Student Union lobby. Students will be able to write a short letter to anyone who has been instrumental in supporting them on their college journey. First Gen students will also be able to meet with Dr. Kim Hunter Reed, Louisiana Commissioner of Higher Education, during a luncheon and include a health component with a visit to NSU’s Welness Fest at the WRAC. Other events for the week include a breakfast, an event to commemorate the 100th birthday of NSU’s mascot, Vic the Demon, an outdoor yoga session and a t-shirt day.
First Gen College Celebration Week at NSU is presented in partnership with TRIO, the Office of the President, First Year Experience, Office of Accessibility and Disability Support, Alpha Lambda Delta, Recruiting, Enrollment Management, NSU Residential Life, NSU Alumni Association, University Programming Council, NSU Publications and Marketing & Branding.
Information on TRIO is available at https://www.nsula.edu/sss/.