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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

New honor society for first-gen students

(Left to right) Stephanie Zellner ’22, Daniella Campos ’23, Lesley Reyes Pina ’22, Anna Kalafatis ’22 and Ryan Fundora ’22 were among those inducted to Tri Alpha on April 16. PHOTO COURTESY OF NANCY KOMADA, PH.D.

St. Joe’s inducted its first members into the Beta Lambda chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha, or Tri Alpha, a national honor society for first-generation college students, on April 16.

 Tri Alpha was founded in 2018 at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and St. Joe’s formed its chapter, Beta Lambda, earlier this academic year. Beta Lambda welcomed 65 St. Joe’s students at its first induction ceremony, which was held over Zoom.

There are three requirements for membership in Beta Lambda, according to Nancy Komada, Ph.D., director of Student Transitions and one of the administrators of the new honor society. To be eligible, neither parent of the potential new member can have a bachelor’s degree. Additionally, the student must have 30 credits and a GPA of at least 3.2. The credit requirement limits membership to sophomores at a minimum. 

Komada said this honor society helps to address the real issues first-generation students face.

“We’re identifying first-generation college students at St. Joe’s so that we can offer them additional support,” Komada said. “Not necessarily extra academic resources but understanding how college works.”

The members of Beta Lambda plan to help their first-year counterparts navigate the unfamiliar college world. Whether that be through resourcing, mentorship, or just camaraderie, the goal is to help first-year students start out on the right foot. 

Lucy Nguyen ’22, whose family immigrated to the U.S. from Vietnam when she was 10 years old, was part of the inaugural induction class. Nguyen’s own parents never attended college, so they could not share experiences with her.

“Both of my parents were born in Vietnam in a very rural neighborhood, so they didn’t get a very high education,” Nguyen said. “I think my mom, her highest education was elementary, and my dad’s is eighth grade.”

Nguyen said she wanted to join Beta Lambda so she can set an example for other first-generation students and help guide them through the same problems she faced. Her biggest tip for other first-generation college students is just to talk to people.

“It’s lonely at times,” Nguyen said. “During orientation, I had questions like ‘How do I register?’ and ‘What classes do I register for?’ Just reach out to anyone if you need help.”

Francesca DePaul ’22, who was also inducted into Beta Lambda, described similar challenges as she navigated the unfamiliar space of college.

“I didn’t have anybody really to help me with applying to college or FAFSA or anything like that, so that was something that I had to overcome,” DePaul said. 

Kailey Kravabloski ’22, another inductee, said she struggled particularly with preparation before the semester began.

“We had assumed that my books would be covered by loans here, and I tried to buy them at the store. I didn’t have the money and my loans wouldn’t cover it,” Kravabloski said. “We had used my savings to get everything else, but I needed hundreds of dollars worth of chemistry and calculus online homework programs, and I remember calling my mom in tears.”

Kravabloski said the Financial Aid Office was able to help her get the books and materials she needed for class and she now takes out loans in order to afford the materials. 

When asked what tips she would give to other first-generation students, DePaul’s advice was to get connected.

“I would say it’s really important for them to have a good connection with their academic advisor,” DePaul said. “That’s a good starting place, especially for me in my situation since I didn’t know what I was doing a lot of times.”

Kravabloski also stressed the importance of making connections and getting to know advisors.

“Take the time to go to the admissions office, the Financial Aid Office, meet your advisor or anyone else that can help you get acquainted,” DePaul said.

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