Celebrating Our First Gen Roos

Connections and resources for first-generation students at UMKC
Students and mentors pose together with props in the photobooth at Student Union.

Student voices filled the air as peers and mentors mingled amongst each other with the occasional clash of jumbo Jenga blocks in the background in the Student Union as UMKC’s First Gen Roo Program celebrated the success of its students.

National First-Generation College Student Celebration took place across the country on Nov. 8 and at UMKC, the activity revolved around the UMKC First Gen Roo Program, an initiative for first-generation students designed to increase student involvement, success and satisfaction and assist in GPA, retention and graduation goals.  

The event kicked off with an informational resource fair in the morning, a professional photobooth available throughout the afternoon, an informational session “Networking Like a First Gen Boss” with Nabil Abas and special UMKC alumni guests Shae Perry (B.A. ’19, film and media), Kennedi Glass (B.B.A ’22, marketing), and Victor Michimani (B.B.A. ’21), followed by a discussion on the imposter phenomenon, and wrapped up with an undergraduate research panel.  

There were numerous booths set up with First Gen Roo swag, a photobooth with props, caricature artist, peer mentors readily available for questions, and more.

Students gather around a table for more information and First Gen Roo swag.  

This celebration highlighted the resources of the First Gen Roo Program which, along with First Gen Proud, helps in continuing as a First Gen Forward institution 

Starting college can be difficult for anyone but being the first one in the family to do it is even more frightening. This program is important because it offers the support and assistance that some students might miss out on when they are the first generation to attend college. There is something special about connecting with peers on another level who have been down the same path and can offer useful insight, as well as the bonds and friendships built from those connections. 

Within the First Gen Roo program, students receive help navigating campus and becoming more involved, working with technology, and refining skills for academic preparation like time management and study skills, as well as social preparation such as decision-making, financial literacy, and other strategies for student success. Students are provided with many resources and opportunities like early move-in, resource workshops, and one-on-one meetings—all before the semester even begins. Once the semester has started, students can expect to have a peer-mentor available for additional support along the way. 

Four students take a selfie with a ring light, holding letters U-M-K-C.

In addition to being surrounded by peers in a similar situation, the program provides trained and dedicated mentors that are eager to help every step of the way. UMKC has a long-term commitment to discovering ways to break down barriers and assist first-generation students’ success here on campus and out in the community after graduation.  

Jailyn Polk, freshman, criminal justice and criminology, said her favorite part of the program has been making friends before the semester started and how helpful it’s been meeting new people and building those bonds.  

Program Coordinator Megan Elsen, who’s worked with first-generation students since 2009, says it’s vital to build a strong community of students and staff that focuses on social and emotional supports in college to create a safe space for those whose parents do not have the direct experience of navigating college.  

"It's important for first-gen students to feel a part of the university just as much as other students. They need to feel like they belong," she says. 

And as the program offers a place for students to connect with others and become more confident in themselves, their studies, and their overall college experience. 

Nabil Abas, senior, communication studies, says that’s definitely been his experience. He reached out as a first-gen student and now he’s one of the support program specialists (mentors) with the program.  “Tap into people who want to see you fly—who really care about you,’’ he says.  

"You just have to find what works for you, and for me, it's First Gen Roos."

Published: Nov 17, 2021

Top Stories