Mt. A to support first generation students

New programming of weekly workshops available for first-generation and low-income students

Academic support services is offering a new program called Mount Allison Support for First Generation Students. The program, aimed at low-income and first-generation university students, will involve a series of weekly workshops held every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. These events will address topics related to finances and general wellbeing.

The program aims to help alleviate some of the stresses that university can present for first-generation and low-income students throughout their time at Mt. A.

“There are small, more nuanced, subtle and almost invisible differences that students face as challenges coming from low-income and first generation families,” said Shelly Colette, former first-generation student and co-creator of the program. “There’s a sense that perhaps they’re the only ones that struggle and I hope that we can take away that sense of exclusion.”

Former first-generation student and Prof. Lisa Dawn Hamilton presented on the topic of time management at the first workshop of the year, which was held on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Over a free lunch, the students received tips on managing distractions, increasing productivity, prioritizing schoolwork and developing healthy study habits. Students were given calendars to organize their schedules for the upcoming semester.

Hamilton spoke to the importance of the program, saying, “As a former first-generation student myself, I think that I would have benefitted greatly from having both practical and academic support to help navigate how university works.”

Jill MacIntyre, a fourth-year International Relations honours student from PEI, is the first-generation student support intern and co-creator of the program. MacIntyre said that her personal experience as a low-income and first-generation student motivated her to get involved with the program.

“I didn’t have someone in my corner who I could go to about applying for university, or editing my scholarship applications, or asking about picking classes, or just any basic knowledge about university — I was just kind of thrown into it,” MacIntyre said. “It was a really isolating and at times really frustrating environment, especially in my first couple of years when I didn’t really know how to navigate the university. I just really wanted to create that support for other students.”

While the program already has a number of workshops planned, the series is open to focusing on needs expressed by students. “My hope is that these students come to the workshops and they tell us what they need, and then we can figure out how we can help them,” said Colette.  This could include the addition of programs such as support groups.

In the upcoming months, students are encouraged to participate in workshops regarding budgeting, accessing financial aid, positive mental health, time management, understanding assignment guidelines and finding part-time employment in Sackville. The next workshop will re-address the topic of time management in the Chapel basement from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 4. Like the Facebook page “Mt. A Support for First Generation Students” to stay up to date on upcoming events and workshops.

Amelia Fleming
Amelia MacDougall Fleming works as a news reporter for the Argosy. She is a second-year student who is majoring in geography and minoring in women’s and gender studies and sociology. Amelia grew up in Sackville and has read the Argosy her whole life.