First Gen United Helps Students Navigate College

Kerstin Peterson and Tyler Beauregard are active members of First Gen United, a low-commitment, dues-free organization that helps first-generation students succeed at Truman.

Many students choose to attend Truman because of the opportunities they can explore as undergraduates. For Tyler Beauregard, a mathematics and computer science double major, that includes studying the intersection of computational complexity and the expressive power of mathematical languages. Fellow student Kerstin Peterson, a biochemistry and molecular biology major, has spent time in the lab researching a protein that may play a role as an alternative for cataract surgery. Before long both Beauregard and Peterson will likely have doctoral degrees and be trusted voices in their respective fields. Their potential contributions to research and the betterment of humanity are full of promise, but the world was very close to not having their future insights. As first-generation college students, Beauregard and Peterson have overcome obstacles many may have never considered, and they are doing their best to help similar students following in their footsteps.

Peterson is a founding member of First Gen United, a low-commitment, dues-free organization designed to help students who might not otherwise have a resource to guide them in their college experience. Beauregard joined his freshman year and now serves as the organization’s president.

“I was very concerned about coming to college,” he said. “First Gen United has been so meaningful to me. Not only has the organization helped to answer all of my questions about college and about being a first-gen student, they’ve also provided a space for me and other first-gen students to feel included and even celebrated.”

Peterson knows firsthand the appeal of an organization where students can ask questions, and it was why she helped charter First Gen United on campus. For even the best-prepared students, starting college can feel overwhelming.

“A lot of my concerns were centered around where to go if I needed help with something. Since my parents did not go to college, I could not ask them about specific university policies or processes,” Peterson said. “First Gen United does a nice job of talking about these resources in an approachable way and provides the connection in a comfortable and confidence-boosting way.”

First-generation students might be more prevalent than most people realize. At Truman, they account for roughly 21 percent of the student body. Figuring conservatively, that’s several hundred students, far less than the actual membership of First Gen United, and its one reason Peterson and Beauregard want more people to be aware of their organization.

“There are a lot of first-generation college students at Truman, and I feel like if we can reach out to more of those students, we could build an even stronger community,” Beauregard said. “A goal I have is to continue to strive toward making our community a space which is open to all first-generation students and focusing on ways to make our organization relevant and inviting to first-gen students of all backgrounds.”

First Gen United is free and open to any first-generation Truman student. There is no formal recruitment process, and joining is as simple as attending a meeting.

“If you show up at any point throughout the semester, you will be greeted with open arms. First-generation students are amazing, and they provide different perspectives to the university world. They are unique and important.” Peterson said. “We would love to start out the semester with new members. First Gen United is a fun and open organization. If you are looking for a place of acceptance where you feel supported in your situation, First Gen United is the place to go.”

Students who would like more information about First Gen United can visit the organization’s Facebook page or contact members by email at
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