First generation students overcome obstacles

By Ume Sarfaraz

(Left to right) Early childhood education major Hanna Angell, 25, attends an advising session with Director of Campus Life Allyson Gleason at Marple Campus Sep 10. Photo by Ume Sarfaraz.

Think back to your junior year of high school, when you were applying to college. Did you have someone to help you?

Imagine you had no help and had to figure it out on your own. That’s typically the start of a first-generation student’s college experience.

“My dad tried to help me fill out my financial aid papers, but it was difficult to figure out since it was his first time,” said first generation DCCC psychology major Vivian Teofilak, 19.

According to a 2018 report from the National Center for Education Statistics, one-third of college students are first-generation. Teofilak is among those students and spoke about remaining determined during her admissions process.

Information provided by DCCC’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness shows 43 to 45 percent of students on campus are first-generation.

Their research also shows that in their first year, first-generation students are completing fewer credits than other students.

First Generation College Students at DCCC

DCCC Office of Institutional Effectiveness

Experts believe first-generation students face many social and economic pressures. Science for Health Professions major Aisha Forson, 20, agrees. “There is a lot of pressure from my family to complete college,” she explained, adding that she was impressed with the many resources available to her on campus and agreed that it made her transition from Africa easier.

Director of Campus Life Allyson Gleason recalled her experience of graduating college as a first-generation student and feeling unsure of how to use her degree to get a job.

Yet Gleason saw something unique in a two-year institution that led to her decision to work at DCCC. “It’s that much more meaningful to help students at a college with such diversity,” she said.

Gleason also spoke about the benefits of the many resources DCCC has to offer, such as the Peer Mentoring Program, a great resource for incoming students, but particularly helpful for first-generation students. Clubs and organizations are another way for students to become more familiar with how DCCC operates.

Gleason also emphasized that the Career & Counseling Center will assist students with their resumes and job placement after college.
With the resources on campus to guide them, Gleason and other DCCC college officials hope that first-generation students are taking back their futures.

DCCC alumna Amanda Martin was a first-generation student when she chose DCCC because she wanted to save money on tuition and liked the feeling of a smaller college. “Coming to community college was less intimidating,” Martin said. “It was an instant decision.”

After completing an associate degree in liberal arts from DCCC, Martin transferred to West Chester University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in professional studies with a concentration in psychology and professionalism.

Students at the Enrollment Center on Marple campus. Photo by Ume Sarfaraz.

Martin is now pursuing her master’s degree in higher education policy and student affairs. For her, things have come around full circle.

Martin expressed that she was proud of her decision to attend DCCC before transferring to a four-year university.

“In the long-run I feel like I’m better off than my friends who attended four-year universities,” she said. “I saved so much money, more than my friends.”

Contact Ume Sarfaraz at

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