First generation students find support in group



They are the first in their families to attend a four-year institution.

They are first-generation college students.  

And Detroit Mercy has many of them – about a third of its enrollment – as well as an organization to support them.

Detroit Mercy First Gen aims to inform, empower and educate first-generation college students.   

First Gen is headquartered on the third floor of the McNichols library in student support services, where students get tutored, create friendships and make connections.  

“The feeling of being a first-generation student is awkward because it feels like you are the only one,” said Mya Williams, a first-generation student who didn’t know until recently that Detroit Mercy had such an organization.   

Willams thought that because her parents received associate degrees, she wouldn’t be considered first-generation.

But she is.

She has struggled, wanting to find students who can relate.

Since being informed about First Gen, she’s planning on joining the organization.  

First Gen holds meetings twice a month to provide students with financial literacy, to create connections with faculty (many of whom are first-generation students themselves) and to help them be successful on the journey through college.  

Rafael Cruz is a staff member for the organization.   

Cruz said students learn to budget money, how to study and good ways to approach a professor.   

“The students can have a support group, and many networking opportunities with the faculty/staff,” said Cruz.   

Cruz said he loves working for the organization because he was once a first-generation college student.   

He wants students to know that it is fine if they have “imposter syndrome.”

They still belong, he said.

Students can accomplish anything they desire, he added.  

Michael James was once a first-generation student (before he graduated).   

He was the first in his family to graduate from a four-year college program.

James grew up on Detroit’s west side, where many people’s goals do not include graduating from college, he said.

When he arrived at Detroit Mercy, he realized that he was not alone after walking into the office of First Gen.  

Being a part of the first generation gave him many opportunities to build relationships with students and to network with faculty.   

While he once thought it would be impossible to graduate from college, he made it a reality.   

Many times it was a challenge, he said. But with the help of First Gen, he achieved his dreams.

The next First Gen meeting will be held Thursday, Oct. 24, 12:45-2 p.m., in the library, room 324.

It includes a free lunch.

For more information, email program coordinator Khrystyna Melnyk at