Nakiya Simpson, a junior Early Childhood Education major, is a first-generation college student, but she has never let that hold her back. When the time came for her to leave for college, Simpson wasn’t sure what to expect.
“Neither of my parents attended college. First-generation students don’t have as much support and we don’t know what we’re getting into. Our parents couldn’t help us as much because they don’t know what college is like.” Simpson decided to join the Mentoring, Academics, Scholarship, and Achievement Initiative (MASAI), a mentor program offered at Illinois State that pairs first-generation or underrepresented students with a current ISU student. Her freshman year, she was paired up with an older student who helped her navigate college life and introduced her to helpful resources on campus. Simpson ended up returning the favor during her sophomore year and serving as a mentor for a new student.
Simpson also made use of TRiO Student Support Services offered on campus. This program provides academic, career, and financial advising to first generation and underrepresented students. According to Simpson, TRiO made it much easier for her to get connected and find community with other first-gen students.
Eventually, Simpson’s experiences as a first-generation student inspired her to help create a new student organization, First Gen Redbirds, on campus. This organization is made up of first-generation students and others dedicated to helping first-gen students succeed. They focus on building community and a sense of belonging for first-gen students, as well as increasing campus awareness about the needs of this population. Due to COVID-19, events and meetings are taking place via Zoom this year, but Simpson says that these meetings are still valuable spaces to check in with each other and keep that sense of community going.
First Gen Redbirds is also taking time this semester to encourage students to get out and vote, a cause Simpson is especially passionate about. “This is my first presidential election that I get to vote in. With all of the stuff that has happened in 2020, we need a good leader who can stand by everyone and support everyone at this time.”
It’s clear that Simpson is a powerful voice on campus and her unswerving dedication to representing first-generation students is inspiring. When asked for a final comment to sum up her story, she responded, “I’m going to always do my best, no matter what challenges are thrown at me.” The Multicultural Outreach Team is proud to feature Nakiya Simpson in our Student Spotlight Story.
For more information on MASAI, visit their website.
For more information on TRiO, visit their website.
For more information on First Gen Redbirds, visit their website.
The Multicultural Outreach Team (MCOT), a part of Student Counseling Services whose mission is to foster a healthy, diverse, and equitable university community for underrepresented students, is seeking nominations for a new program in which we spotlight the achievements of diverse students on campus in a news story on our social media. If you know of a student who deserves to be featured, please submit the form.