RAFT mentor first gen students

To kick off California State University Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) spring semester, Reunion And Family Traditions (RAFT) peer mentors Jaron Leary and Jacky Rodriguez hosted an enlightening discussion about the pressures of being a first-generation college student called First Generation Otter Destress. Leary and Rodriguez led the conversation by describing a foundation of what is needed to be successful in college. 

To be successful, one needs a plan. Set goals and stick with it. Sometimes the issue can be the common dilemma of ‘where do I start?’ but hosts Leary and Rodriguez said creating a list of goals – starting with just a few at a time that are most important – is a great way to organize and follow a clear, guided path. 

Despite all the responsibilities students have, they need to remember to prioritize themselves before they can dive head-first into their academics. Meaning, one’s mental and physical health comes first. 

To channel the positive energy to put oneself first, the students present at the event were asked to think of a list of obstacles that could potentially prevent them from achieving their said goals. Whether it be family, stress, anxiety or time management, students were asked to write all of them down, and then surprisingly asked to tear them up, representing that these setbacks will not keep someone from succeeding. 

Attendees were then asked to acknowledge their strengths. This important lesson teaches one not only to acknowledge weakness and obstacles, but also become aware of the positive parts of themselves.

To maintain good mental and physical health, grounding activities were mentioned. Netflix, playing video games or going for a walk, are all part of what the hosts described as the grounding “progressive muscle relaxation,” exercise, where one focuses on the body’s response to stillness. 

Starting at the toes and leading all the way up to the head during the exercise provides a full-body activity. The goal is to focus on the tightness in each part of the body, tighten as hard as one can for a couple seconds, then release and feel the tension and stress fade away while remembering to continuously breathe in and out during the exercise.

The presentation concluded with one final activity. Leary asked everyone to share on a jamboard one thought, experience or regret had from their time in schooling. The most common thought shared was the mutual struggles, failures and pressures that come with being the first in your family to attend college. 

Rodriguez shared that she has always felt the need to do well and get good grades. It is crucial to remember that there is no timeline or ideal criteria for success, especially when it comes to yourself. Whether you are an A student or a C student, it does not matter. Choosing self-care and receiving a higher education is already the right step into a better future. 

RAFT peer mentor applications are available online. The application lays out how one would qualify, as well as the services said student is able to provide.

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