Redlands Celebrates First-Generation Students

Two people sit on plush white chairs, with two other people on a red couch. A plant is in between both groups.

Redlands Community College’s Student Engagement Specialist Tori Davis shares her experience and offers words of encouragement to students during the college’s first-generation student panel discussion. Davis is a first-generation college graduate and works with many students in the college’s TRIO Student Support Service program who are the first in their families to pursue a degree. Joining her during the first-generation student panel are (l-r) students Chase Kingery, Yolanda Robb and Trevon Adderley.

Pursuing a college degree can be challenging and overwhelming, especially for students whose parents didn’t take the same path. To support and encourage these students, Redlands Community College hosted a panel of first-generation students and graduates, including members of the college’s faculty and staff. 

“We appreciate and understand how difficult and lonely college can be for first-generation students, grappling with an unfamiliar experience and limited guidance,” said Redlands President Jena Marr. “Sixty-eight percent of Redlands students are first-gen, and many of our own faculty and staff were in the same situation, including myself. It’s rewarding to be a part of their journey, and the Redlands family is committed to helping our students every step of the way.”

This Fall the college was the recipient of the First-Generation College Celebration Grant awarded by the Center for First-generation Student Success and the Council for Opportunity in Education. The grant supports events and activities that recognize these students who are pursuing their educational goals. First-generation students are identified as those whose parents or guardians do not have a bachelor’s degree.

Several faculty and staff who are first-generation college graduates shared their experiences on the college’s social media platforms, and others participated in the panel discussion. Students, employees and guests were invited to the panel discussion to learn more about the challenges and successes of first-generation students and graduates. Panelists included students Trevon Adderley, Chase Kingery, and Yolanda Robb, and psychology professor Paul Simon and TRIO Student Support Services engagement specialist Tori Davis.

"The reason I chose to come to college as a first-generation college student is because I wanted to make a better future for myself and make my parents proud," said Kingery. "The advice I would offer a first-generation college student is that at first it is scary but it does get better, you get more familiar. Ask questions. People, especially here at Redlands, are here to help you."

Since many of the college’s faculty and staff are also first-generation college graduates, they are able to provide specialized assistance and support that better meets the needs of students. Dr. Jalelah Abdul-Raheem, head of the nursing department, is proud of her first-generation status since she is able to represent a minority background which helps her establish rapport with students.

Tori Davis values her capacity to engage with students, a sentiment rooted in her status as a first-generation college graduate. As a student engagement specialist in the TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) program, she works with many of the college’s first-generation students to help them navigate academic challenges and encourage them as they work to overcome other obstacles.

“The most important piece of advice I would give is just to know your why and what’s motivating you to be here. Always have that in the back of your mind because it is not always easy but in the end it’s worth it,” Davis said.
In addition to the Student Support Services program, Redlands offers many opportunities for first-generation college students to access valuable resources and services and connect with faculty and staff who provide critical support. Recognizing the distinctive challenges encountered by these students is crucial for the enhancement of support programs and services, and conducting this panel event provided an opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussions that revealed valuable insights in the unique needs of first-generation college students.