Graduating from Shawnee State University as a first-generation college student, Winchester resident Madison Siders wanted to make her own path. Receiving a degree in psychology with a concentration in pre-art therapy, and minors in deaf studies and studio arts, Siders is currently working on her master’s degree in counseling.
“Being a first-generation college student to me means creating my own path for my education, my career, and my future,” she said. “It allows me to be grateful for the opportunities I have had and the individuals who have helped me along my way.”
First finding SSU after several of her friends attended the university, Siders decided to pursue a degree in psychology because she was interested in the subject and how it can be used to serve those struggling with their mental health.
“I wanted to pursue a degree that would allow me to have a career where I could help others,” she said. “I really enjoyed all aspects of my program. My favorite part would have to be the internship and research opportunities. I had the opportunity to complete two internships and a research project while at SSU, it allowed me to further explore my field.”
Being part of the I Am First Gen program at SSU, Siders was able to create bonds and mentorships with individuals on campus to help guide her towards graduation.
“I had a really good mentor who I was able to talk to about grad school and I had other first gen individuals on campus that I could go to for support and guidance,” she said. “The I Am First Gen program provided the support I needed while at college and provided mentors who have had some of the same experiences.”
Unsure at first how to take the next step after graduating with her bachelor’s degree to pursue her master’s, Siders relied on the support her academic advisor and First Gen mentors gave her through her decision-making process.
“Through my advisor and other First Gen mentors on campus, I was able to talk to them, learn more about opportunities at SSU, learn more about clubs and organizations available, and what the next steps I needed to take were,” she said.
To other first-generation college students, Siders encourages them to be willing to accept help and to ask for assistance when they need it.
“The faculty and staff at SSU want to see you succeed and they are there to help you,” she said. “SSU provides so many support systems for students. Your professors and your advisor are there to help you and they can help guide you to new opportunities, help with your classes, and help with your plans after college.”
To learn more about opportunities for first-generation college students at Shawnee State University, visit www.shawnee.edu/firstgen.
Submitted by Elizabeth Blevins, executive director, marketing and communications, Shawnee State University.