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Stanislaus State launches honors society for first-generation students

Stanislaus State University is the first on the West Coast to set up a Tri-Alpha honors society specifically for their first generation college students.

TURLOCK, Calif. — It didn't take long for Stanislaus State University's new first-generation honors society to start raking up applications. More than 200 students, all of whom are blazing new trails for their family in higher education, have signed up for the Tri-Alpha honors society, the first chapter in California and the West Coast.

It's an honors society specifically for first-generation students, and by signing up for the Tri-Alpha honors society, students get a bit more recognition for their academic achievements. 

But Aprillyn Gaoat, president and graduate student, believes the people in that group can also empower one another as they come across all too common barriers.

"As first gen [first-generation student], you’re just trying to survive. You're just trying to get an education when your parents or whoever have obligations," said Gaoat. "You’re moving forward, but at the same time, you're kind of scared."

Gaoat took her first steps onto a university campus as a transfer student. Her path ultimately brought her to Sacramento State to finish her Bachelor's Degree and later to Stanislaus State to be part of their Master's program.

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It was a trek through uncharted territory, where family alone wasn't necessarily enough to help her navigate important decisions.

She says her parents were the cheerleaders that helped push her forward, but her colleagues, professors and the others she met in academia were the ones who lit the way forward and coached her through the steps. 

A similar bond resonates even among her colleagues in the Master's program.

"We know the struggles that sometimes I can't even have conversations with my own family members because they don’t have that experience," Gaoat said.

That shared experience from peers and others kept her grounded in fundamentals like time management and maintaining priorities, even if it meant missing time with her family.

"A lot of my siblings… wouldn't even invite me to their parties or things like that because they know I’m busy studying," Gaoat said.

As president for the newly formed society, her vision is to provide that same support she got from her peers and encourage others to exercise their leadership skills.

Having a support like that is a critical element for navigating "uncharted territory," according to Gaby Nuno, Academic Success Center Director and member of the society.

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"[Uncharted territory is] overgeneralized, right? Even in our first-generation population, the idea that you're entering uncharted territory, for some, it can impact your confidence," said Nuno.

Recalling her undergraduate years, Gaoat said she made decisions that couldn't have been prevented, simply due to a lack of experience and knowledge. 

Over time, Gaoat hopes the group members will be able to foster a support system to help one another.

There likely won't be much of a shortage of first-generation students to choose from as well. About 74% of Stanislaus State's students identify as first generation.

Future goals aside, Nuno is content just to see the group start off strong, netting more than 200 signups that are eager to engage in the new honors society.

"Just the fact that we're recognizing and celebrating their academic achievement as first generation makes it worth it. Anything extra is really icing on the cake," Nuno said.

For more information on Tri-Alpha at Stanislaus State, click HERE

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