First Gen Initiative fundraiser works to increase opportunities for first-gen students

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Judith Lima said her experience as a first-generation student has been both difficult and rewarding.

“I don’t have the luxury of asking friends and family on tips and tricks for registering for classes, funding my cost of attendance and transitioning from high school to college … however, I wouldn’t change my experience for the world,” accounting senior Lima said.

Lima is part of a committee of first-generation students at UT. Last month, the committee partnered with the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement to plan a month-long fundraiser to provide resources and accommodations for first-generation students.

The fundraiser runs online from Nov. 6 to Dec. 5. So far, 15 donors have raised $3,480 of the committee’s $15,000 goal through a HornRaiser page.

Helen Wormington, deputy to the vice president for Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, said the fundraiser is a student-led effort. She said the money raised would go directly toward students in the form of study abroad scholarships and payment for hiring student mentors, among other areas.

“The money raised by this initiative is not going towards administrative costs,” Wormington said. “Our student committee has put so much effort and creativity into this project, so we want the money to go from the hands of the students to the hands of other students.”

Wormington said the initiative is committed to increasing accessibility for students.

“Our scholarships for study abroad have no GPA stipulations,” Wormington said. “This is one way we can make resources and opportunities more accessible for students.”

Above all, Wormington said the initiative is about creating an inclusive community at UT that provides support for students’ social and mental health.

Committee member Victoria Cruz said it is crucial to make first-generation students feel welcomed at UT and provide them with resources.

“As a first-generation student, I couldn’t ask my parents for help filling out college applications, or filing a FAFSA,” said Cruz, a human development and family sciences senior. “Having a mentor who knows about the college process and is aware of resources for students at UT is extremely helpful.”

Wormington said while this is the committee’s first fundraiser, she hopes the tradition will continue.

“As the University grows, we hope the community we have created for first-generation students grows as well,” Wormington said. “We want to create a legacy.”