[Editor's note: this story marks the publishing debut at UW Tacoma of our new student writer, Danni Derrickson. We're thrilled to have Danni on our team, adding her student-focused perspective to our stories. Like, who knew that finals week is also called "dead week"!?]
Geared toward students working to become the first in their families to graduate from college, First Gen Fellows, a student run program at UW Tacoma, wanted to help first generation students decompress during finals week. Infamously known for essays, exams and fast-approaching deadlines, the week of end-of-quarter assessment can be daunting for students whoaren’t already familiar with the many facets of higher education. With this in mind, First Gen Fellows decided to host “De-Stress Fest,” a series of events designed to assist all students in alleviating the stress of “dead week.”
The organization’s advisor, Kristi Soriano-Noceda, understands the increased difficulty faced by students whose families haven’t either attended or finished college. She herself was a first-generation student. “You may not know the ins and outs of higher education if your parents didn’t go to college,” she said.
With that in mind, members of First Gen Fellows created “De-Stress Fest” in hopes of teaching first generation students methods of balancing their stress, rather than holding themselves to unrealistic, often impossible expectations. “Procrastination is actually a part of your experience, we all do it," said Soriano-Noceda. “What we want [first generation students] to be mindful of is that you have to take care of yourself.”
According to James Christian Flores Da, the Leadership Development Coordinator of First Gen Fellows,“De-Stress Fest” is more than a fun event on campus; it’s a means of teaching students their college experience doesn’t have to be overwhelming. “It's easing the narrative that your first year, or first quarter or semester of college is supposed to be, like, intense,” he said.
A first generation student himself, Da is also familiar with the stress that accompanies being the first in your family to attend college. While his family encourages him in his pursuit of higher education, it is often hard for them to relate to the comprehensive nature of being a college student. “My parents don't really understand the sleepless nights it takes to get that good grade or recognition,” he said.
It is this understanding of the unique hurdles faced by first generation students that not only drives Da and Soriano-Noceda, but all the members of First Gen Fellows in their endeavor to make college more accessible for those to whom it hasn’t been traditionally.
First Gen Fellows’ “De-Stress Fest” will feature several activities, like making stress balls, getting a massage and playing dodgeball. While the week centers on decompressing during finals, the larger goal of the event is students learning that there is a resource here on campus advocating for them. “I hope students realize there is a group on campus, whether they're first gen or not, that's here to support them,” Da said. “I feel like it will go a long ways.”
John Burkhardt, UW Tacoma Communications, 253-692-4536 or firstname.lastname@example.org