Rocio Diaz and Gilberto Perez Jr. want first-generation college students to succeed. And the Goshen College Student Life administrators are putting in the effort to help students do just that. 

On Saturday, Oct. 12, Goshen College will be hosting a dinner for parents of first-generation students at the Westlawn Dining Hall. Diaz, director of community engagement and adult outreach, has coordinated the dinner to invite parents of first-generation students to celebrate the accomplishments of their students and to learn what it takes for them to be successful while at college. 

According to Diaz, the dinner will function primarily as a teaching session for parents. An array of topics will be covered, with the intention of educating parents about expectations of being a college student and challenges that are sometimes unique to Latinx students.

Diaz, herself a parent of first-generation students, understands the feeling of being in a position where everything about college life and education is unfamiliar and acknowledges the impact of mistakes that are sometimes made by parents, most often coming from a lack of knowledge.  

“There are so many things that first-generation students bring with them coming to school and parents don’t always understand the burden of that,” she said. 

Latinx first-generation students often face challenges in balancing different expectations from college, family, culture and work. 

“There are a lot of first-generation students that are struggling in so many ways, but whenever you see their story, you’ll know there is a reason why, and we need to help them,” Diaz said. 

Perez, vice president for student life, also acknowledges the importance of connecting more intentionally with students and parents to help facilitate an understanding of college education and a need for balance between family and school. 

“We want parents to feel like they are welcomed on campus and they know the things that are happening with students, and there’s always a component of education. We want to educate parents on different processes,” said Perez. 

As a first-generation student himself, Perez understands and relates to the experiences of many students. This year he has had the opportunity to interact and have conversations with more students. 

“My conversations tend to be with students and first generation students sometimes about conduct and community standards and how students live into those, but I’m really a listening ear,” Perez said. “I am trying to help them navigate systems.”

“At the same time, I try to help them understand the difference between autonomy and interdependence of their family, but also the maturity of themselves and how they can build good relationships with friends but maintain the relationships with family.”

Perez wants first-generation students to know that there is a large network of people and resources at Goshen College available for them. 

“I just try to listen to them and encourage them to actually seek out the resources that are at their disposal, by offering the connection to other people it helps them realize that, ‘Oh, there's a lot of people who actually want to help and want to support them,’” Perez said. 

Diaz, too, wants to see all students succeed and has a passion for helping Latinx families succeed. 

“I do feel a sincere interest in Latino students graduating because to me, I feel that as a community of Latinos, if (Latino students) succeed, the whole Latino community is going to succeed and I want to see that,” Diaz said. 

Both Diaz and Perez acknowledge the importance of creating ways to help first-generation students succeed at Goshen College, as well as the need for others to understand their experiences and struggles, in order to break barriers and create relationships of support with students and parents.