First-Generation Summit Supports New Students

Graudates with back to camera caps in air
July 28, 2022

As part of St. John’s University’s commitment to empowering first-generation college students from diverse ethnic backgrounds, the Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Division of Special and Opportunity Programs are sponsoring the inaugural First-Gen Summit: “An Empowered Journey” on the Queens, NY, campus on August 2.

A first-generation student is defined as one whose parents or guardians have not completed a four-year college degree. The summit seeks to inform, connect, and empower these students, who often have common experiences as the first person in their families to enroll and navigate a four-year college experience.

Alexandra Marquez, Director, NY GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs), noted that she was thrilled to cochair this initial offering. “Having worked with this population, I see the importance of providing additional comprehensive support for students in order to help them to persist, as well as start, their higher educational journey from a strengths-base, rather than a deficit, perspective.”

“It is my honor to partner with Alex to usher in the continued legacy of excellence that students attending this Summit come equipped with, and to empower them to achieve their greatest dreams,” observed Monique Jernigan, Assistant Vice President of Equity and Inclusion. 

“Being first can be tough, but it is purposeful, and even more rewarding and enriching when you walk across that stage at graduation knowing, ‘You may be first, but you will not be the last.’”

The day includes small group activities, a keynote speaker, and an introduction to available resources. A first-generation panel discussion includes St. John’s students and alumni who have achieved their career goals, as well as several who are still navigating their personal and career journeys.

Keynote speaker Averie Bishop is a first-generation law student in her third year at Southern Methodist University (SMU). At SMU, she was President of the Asian American/Pacific Islander Law Student Association and a closing argument tournament champion. 

Ms. Marquez added, “All students do not begin this journey with access to the same knowledge base or resources, therefore it is important that we recognize and address these student needs whenever possible.”