Kendra Dickey '21

Kendra DickeyMajor: Nursing

What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college?

Being the first in my family to go to college in pursuit of a four-year degree was equal parts terrifying and so exciting. It was terrifying because I knew I was going down a path that nobody in my family had dared to go down before, but it was exciting because I knew it was the best decision for me and that no matter how hard it got, it would be worth it in the end. Knowing that I couldn't turn to my parents for advice during my college years was daunting, and I didn't really know where to turn when I faced roadblocks. Luckily, I came to find that UP had many helpful resources for people like me, such as the FGEN Program. The key to success as an FGEN student is self advocacy. Identify the resources available to you and take advantage of them. They are there to help you, you just have to take the first step. There is no shame in seeking help when things get hard! One of my favorite campus resources is the Health and Counseling Center. Sometimes just talking it out with someone is all you need to get back on track.

What does it mean for your personally to be a part of the FGEN community and, specifically, to be a FGEN student ambassador?

Being part of the FGEN community means having a place that I belong and knowing that I am never alone. During my freshman year, I quickly felt very isolated and alone when I began to notice that not many people shared my situation as a first-generation college student. When I learned about the FGEN program, it was so comforting to know that I actually wasn't alone and there were people on campus I could relate to. I am so thrilled to be an FGEN Student Ambassador so that I can help guide students through college from experience and be a person they can look up to and turn to when college gets difficult and they can't turn to their parents. It's important to have peers that you can relate to, and that can be hard as a first-generation college student. That's why I'm so honored and excited to be an FGEN Student Ambassador.

What is your advice to FGEN students at UP who are facing challenges?

My advice to first-generation students when they are facing challenges is to take advantage of the many resources offered by UP that are created to help you. A lot of these are through the Shepherd Academic Resource Center, such as the FGEN Program, the Learning Commons, and peer tutors. Additionally, I would highly recommend the Health and Counseling Center for their counselors. Talking it out with someone can help so much more than you might think. Lastly, don't be afraid to turn to people who can help you, such as your FGEN mentor, your RA and other hall staff, pastoral residents, and even your professors. All these people want you to succeed, and will do whatever they can to help you!

Did a mentor play a role in your experience?

My freshman year was rough, but thankfully I developed a very close relationship with my assistant hall director who helped me tremendously when I faced difficulties. She was always there for me to talk when I needed it, and to recommend resources around campus. Having her as a mentor was so helpful because without her, I would've been so lost and felt so alone. The transition to college life is so much easier when you have someone to turn to for guidance, and as a first-generation student, that isn't always your parents.

What resources have been significant, meaningful or helpful for you so far during your UP experience?

The most significant resources to me so far at UP have been hall staff, the Health and Counseling Center, and Brother Thomas Guimenta in the Learning Commons. Hall staff are so ready and willing to help anyone who needs it and they have a wealth of knowledge to help you and point you in the right direction. Don't be scared or intimidated to reach out to your hall director, assistant hall director, or RA when you need guidance. The counselors at the Health and Counseling center are indispensable. I cannot stress enough how helpful just a couple of counseling sessions can be! Sometimes just talking about your struggles out loud can cause you to look at things from a new perspective and shed light on what the right action might be. Brother Thomas Guimenta, more commonly known as Bro Tom, is so sweet and incredibly insightful and helpful. If you feel like you need to improve your study habits or identify test-taking strategies that may help you, he is an excellent resource.