One of the very first sentences freshmen hear when joining the WSU family is, “Cougs help Cougs.” That motto has not changed despite the new circumstances for the fall semester. Although the Cougar community has moved to a virtual format, there are many ways to make this year just as special.
One group especially impacted during this time are first-generation students. “La Bienvenida,” which is offered under the College Assistance Migrant Program, helps families understand what universities have to offer to first-generation students. La Bienvenida means “the welcoming” in Spanish.
Marcela Pattinson, assistant director for community relations and outreach at the Office of Multicultural Student Services at WSU, said that there are many options for first-generation students right now.
“The Office of Community, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence has taken many steps in providing new resources or just promoting existing ones. There are also many other offices that are expanding resources for food insecurity, scholarships, and academic tutoring,” Pattinson wrote in an email. “We now have a hotline for academic questions. It is very simple to use, yet very necessary for the success of our students.”
Some first-generation students come from all over the world. Linda Vargas, ambassador for Undocumented Initiatives, said she was born in Mexico. Vargas said she understands and is trying to assist with some of the struggles students may be experiencing during this time.
“There has been a great focus on first-gen students given that we can expect these students to be more negatively impacted by online learning both financially and in receiving resources,” Vargas wrote in an email. “Transitioning to college is already a challenge in itself, but on top of that, now we have students struggling with their health, money, mental health and academics. We have to establish communication with them so that we can give them the resources.”
When the world started to shut down near the end of May, many families started to experience financial hardship. Though there are resources to help financially, WSU families who live outside the U.S. may not be able to access them. This year, the way programs and opportunities are promoted is through email, zoom or even livestreams. If students do not have the proper resources, they will also be missing out on these opportunities.
“The university can have as many programs as it can hold in its capacity, but if the students are not aware of the programs and opportunities, the programs are no good,” Vargas wrote. “Now more than ever is it important for our different university departments and programs to move as one body and give support by promoting each other’s resources, especially if they are student resources.”
No matter who you are or where you’re from, WSU is your community, and Cougs will always help Cougs.