For this year’s First-Generation Week celebration, we asked students like Vera Tagtaa to share what it means to be a first-generation student (or First Osprey), how it impacted their college experience and what support they have received since choosing Stockton University.
In Vera’s case, being first-generation is about leaving a legacy of engagement on campus.
Being first-generation means a great deal to me because… I come from parents who didn't even think they would be in the U.S. or travel to America one day, and I come from grandparents who probably wouldn't know what Stockton University meant if I said it to them, and I pride myself in knowing that every generation of my family has accomplished something.
My grandparents migrated to Ghana, my parents moved to the U.S., and now I'm able to add college – graduating from a four-year accredited institution – to that bowl of accomplishments for my family and my generation.
And honestly, that's what being first generation means to me: that I'm also adding on to my bloodline in the hopes that the next generation will continue that accomplishment trail.
My office is honestly one of the best offices with the best people I've ever worked with; whenever I need help with anything, I can go to them. It's made being at Stockton a lot easier because having professional staff who honestly and genuinely want to help you and want to see you succeed is really nice.
Being first-generation as a college experience has been really hard. Not only am I coming from a family (that) didn't really finish or get the opportunity to pursue their higher education in Ghana or in the U.S., but I have a family who basically had no idea how the education system worked in this country, so…
It was really tough having to do everything education-wise, but college was probably the hardest because it has so many different parts to it: the financial aspect, the social aspect, everything was very new to me. I think at this point as a senior who hopes to graduate soon, I think I have the hang of everything at this point.
The support that I received from Stockton, I think, when I first began was more financial, which I really appreciated. But, as time went on, I realized that money wasn't the only thing that students really needed help with. There's a lot of help that I received, mostly because I was very involved on campus, whether it was organizations or sports or even working on campus.
One of the first jobs I got was working (in) the Student Transitions Office and the staff over there, who I still talk to today, were very helpful in every way they could with letters of recommendation, advice (and) just anything. And, even now, I work (with) the Dean of Students, and I've been there for a few years now. My office is honestly one of the best offices with the best people I've ever worked with; whenever I need help with anything, I can go to them.
It's made being at Stockton a lot easier because having professional staff who honestly and genuinely want to help you and want to see you succeed is really nice. It helps, too, that I get to see them every week because I do work with them.
I remember last spring, I went through a really hard time with an organization, and I had a couple of incidents happen, and I honestly didn't know how to address the situation, or who to go to, or who to speak to. I remember taking it to dean (Marques) Johnson, who I work with in the Dean of Students (Office), and it was honestly the biggest relief seeing somebody jump up to help me with an issue I was having.
I just feel like being able to work (with) the Dean of Students has been one of the best opportunities I have received at Stockton because it's honestly changed my college experience a lot – a lot more than I expected that it would. I love it there, and I always encourage people to get involved, even if you don't want to do sports or you don't want to be involved in organizations and clubs, get involved working at an office. I think it's a really great way to connect with people, and honestly, I've met so many staff and faculty. I've met so many people who have been impactful in my college experience simply by working at the offices that I've been able to work at.
Elevate Your Voice!
Galloway, N.J. – There are three things that students should be focused on during their higher education journey – themselves, their circle and the finish line waiting for them once they earn their degree – according to Michael Spence, first-generation college graduate and keynote speaker at the First to Soar Celebration on Nov. 7
“For all of us in here, we're going down the path that no one in our family has ever gone down, and sometimes, it's probably one of the hardest things to go through,” Spence told the audience of first-generation students at Stockton. “See, it's easy to walk in someone else's footprints, but how about walking footprints that were never laid out for you? How do I make this journey that I got sent out to do and that I wanted people before me to do? I’m here to tell you that that pressure could either burst pipes or turn into diamonds, but it’s all about what you’re made of. I’m here to tell you that this journey here is not here to burst your pipes but to help make you a diamond.”
— Story by Loukaia Taylor